A much-used terminology when describing a certain class of worker is to refer to someone as either a blue collar or white collar worker.
Many of us understand that the terms are used to describe someone who is probably better educated and more likely to be viewed as middle class if they are referred to as a white collar worker. Alternatively, a stereotypical blue collar worker is considered to be someone who engages in manual labor and will likely work in construction or some sort of industrial vocation.
Do these descriptions depict a modern-day social class system and do the worker classifications still apply in today’s labor market?
A typical white collar worker
This classification of worker is normally typified by referring to a worker who is likely to be wearing a suit and tie and works in an office.
The general assumption is that someone in this category is likely to be earning more money than their so-called blue collar worker counterpart.
The term has broadened in context over recent times and would also encompass someone who might have an administrative role in a company and not just a person in a management or senior position.
The perception of an average white collar worker would be someone more likely to be working in the service industry rather than manufacturing.
A typical blue collar worker
If you were asked to describe a typical blue collar worker it would probably be someone who earns a living carrying out some sort of manual labor which could be in agriculture, construction, or any similar occupation that could be described as physically demanding and not administrative.
It is not just the type of job that distinguishes the two classes and job security, as well as promotional aspirations, can be contrastingly different between the two classes.
A typical white collar worker may well feel that as they obtained their job through a more robust and stringent application process they are more difficult to replace and less likely to get fired.
A blue collar worker might not even earn an annual salary and take a position on a short-term contract rather than enjoying the security of full-time employment.
Job insecurity can be a major issue with blue collar workers who might be able to find regular work but hours may not be guaranteed and they might have to switch jobs more often than someone in a white collar job.
Is it still as black and white?
Although it is not difficult to find examples of blue and white collar workers who fit the stereotype that tends to define these different classes of worker it does seem that the lines are beginning to blur between the two as time goes by.
For example, someone with a recognized trade such as being a qualified electrician can now command a decent salary that is comparable to their white collar counterpart.
Competition for positions amongst white collar workers can tend to suppress wage growth as employers can take their pick from a large talent pool. By comparison, a so-called blue collar worker might find that they are able to earn a good wage because their skills are in demand.
It seems that these days blue collar and white collar workers are not so different as we once thought they were and class barriers are definitely being realigned, if not removed.