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In many countries (like Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, or the United States), a white-collar worker is a person who performs professional, managerial, or administrative work. White-collar work is performed in an office, cubicle, or other administrative setting. Other types of work are those of a blue-collar worker, whose job requires manual labor and a pink-collar worker, whose labor is related to customer interaction, entertainment, sales, or other service-oriented work. Many occupations blend blue, white and pink (service) industry categorizations.
The term refers to the white dress shirts of male office workers common through most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Western countries, as opposed to the blue overalls worn by many manual laborers.
The term "white collar" is credited to Upton Sinclair, an American writer, in relation to contemporary clerical, administrative, and management workers during the 1930s, though references to white-collar work appear as early as 1934.
Formerly a minority in the agrarian and early industrial societies, white-collar workers have become a majority in industrialized countries due to modernization and outsourcing of manufacturing jobs.
The blue-collar and white-collar descriptors as it pertains to work dress may no longer be an accurate descriptor as office attire has broadened beyond a white shirt and tie. Employees in office environments may wear a variety of colors, may dress business casual or wear casual clothes altogether. In addition work tasks have blurred. "White-collar" employees may perform "blue-collar" tasks (or vice versa). An example would be a restaurant manager who may wear more formal clothing yet still assist with cooking food or taking customers' orders or a construction worker who also performs desk work.
- Mills, Charles Wright. White Collar: the American Middle Classes, in series, Galaxy Book[s]. New York: Oxford University Press, 1956. N.B.: "First published [in] 1951."
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