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A Colourful Workforce: What colour is your collar?

Groups of working individuals are typically classified based on the colours of their collars worn at work; these can commonly reflect a person's occupation or sometimes even gender.

We’re all familiar with blue and white-collar work, but a new group of collar colour designations has started to make its rounds in the industry, some more so to do with gender and stereotyping (which we don't entirely agree with) has made its way into the professional sphere leading those who work to create buyer personas for clients having to delve into a whole new spectrum of collars.


The term "white-collar worker" was coined in the 1930s by Upton Sinclair, an American writer who referenced the word in connection to clerical, administrative and managerial functions during the 1930s. A white-collar worker is a salaried professional, typically referring to general office workers and management.

White-collar workers are named for the white-collared shirts that were fashionable among office workers in the early and mid-20th century.


The workforce that is not classified as blue-collar or white-collar. It is occasionally used to describe elderly individuals working beyond the age of retirement, as well as those occupations incorporating elements of both blue- and white-collar.


Robots, particularly in manufacturing that typically replace blue-collar jobs.


Manual labourers in industries in which workers generally become very dirty, such as mining or oil-drilling; has also been used to describe workers in illegal professions.


A blue-collar worker is a member of the working class who performs manual labour and either earns an hourly wage or is paid piece rate for the amount of work done. This term was first used in 1924. Blue-collar workers are referred to as such because in the early 20th century, they usually wore inexpensive clothing that did not show dirt easily, such as blue denim or cambric shirts.

With shortages in blue-collar workers becoming more and more apparent, we see this category of a worker becoming a part of the gig economy. A prime example is Coca-Cola, which uses the platform Wonolo to hire merchandise delivery drivers for restocking shelves in between scheduled deliveries.


A pink-collar worker is also a member of the working class who performs in the service industry. They work in positions such as waiters, retail clerks, salespersons, and many other positions involving relations with people. The term was coined in the late 1990s as a phrase to describe jobs that were typically held by women.

In fact, a 2018 article from The New York Times Style Magazine: Singapore strongly states that "owing to society’s preconditions of women as a nurturer and a caregiver, their roles in the workplace take on similar responsibilities. These hardwired ideals have pigeonholed sectors such as healthcare, hospitality, childcare and housekeeping as pink-collar sectors."


Workers in the sex industry


Government workers of all types; derived from compensation received from red ink budget. In China, it also refers to Communist Party officials in private companies.


Prison labourers, named for the orange jumpsuits commonly worn by inmates.


A gold-collar worker is a highly skilled multidisciplinarian or knowledge worker who combines intellectual labour—which is typically white-collar—with the manual labour of blue-collar positions. Armed with highly specialized knowledge, gold-collar workers usually engage in problem-solving or complex technical work in fields such as academic/scientific research, engineering technicians and advanced technology industries.


Military personnel


Workers in a wide range of professions relating to the environment and renewable energy.


Develops the technical and soft skills needed to work in the contemporary technology industry through nontraditional education paths. This is probably the most popular collar in Sri Lanka, and albeit lesser-known.

New collar jobs are occupations which focus more on a candidate’s skills during the hiring process, rather than his or her level of education (they often do require other types of vocational training and certifications though - such as Pathway programmes through popular colleagues and universities). New collar jobs are mostly found in information technology, manufacturing and healthcare industries.


Artists and "free spirits" who tend to privilege passion and personal growth over financial gain. This term was popularized on the reality game show Survivor: Worlds Apart, which used No Collar (in addition to White and Blue Collar as the tribal divisions). This also favours people who work, but not for payment.

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