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Gold-collar worker (GCW) is a neologism which has been used to describe either young, low-wage workers who invest in conspicuous luxury, or highly skilled knowledge workers, traditionally classified as white collar, but who have recently become essential enough to business operations as to warrant a new classification.
Low wage, luxury seeking
These are 18- to 25-year-old persons in a position to divert a significant portion of their earnings towards material luxuries. They typically have fewer than 2 years of post-high school education. Like their counterparts attending college, they are often employed as retail workers or in the hospitality industry, particularly food service as servers. This group tends to have more disposable income than college students, who often pay high tuition costs, take on a number of financial loans, and often move away from their parents. A lack of financial obligations leaves young people in this situation with a higher level of discretionary/disposable income, which they use to finance luxury goods. Thus, the term also carries a connotation of immaturity, the extension of youth, and nurtured adolescence, as in the movie Failure to Launch, where a man still lives with his parents despite being well into his 30s and owning a business. In the UK the expression 'two-bob billionaire' is used, in that whilst one feels wealthy and hardworking, one's status is in fact illusory.
The main challenge faced by gold-collar workers is the short-lived nature of their financial security. More often than not, these people marry and have children, and take on additional financial responsibilities such as mortgages and health insurance. With partial or no higher education, however, their job prospects could be viewed as narrow and fairly restricted.
Gold Collar often refers to entry level workers (or unskilled workers from middle-class families), in their twenties who want flex time hours, self-control, independence, empowerment, to furnish their own offices, a signing bonus, full tuition reimbursement, flex benefits, to work as a team, casual Friday every day, to work from home, to have fun, and don't want to feel loyal to the company.
|“||These people are going to be cash-rich 19-year-olds and cash-poor 30-year-olds... If you're making 22 grand a year and not paying for college, you can earn enough disposable income to have an apartment and a car. But it tops out there. Job security is not good, and you end up in the lower middle class and working poor.||”|
|— Anthony Carnevale, National Center on Education and the Economy|
Highly skilled, highly valuable
It has been reported that the term 'Gold-Collar worker' was first used by Robert Earl Kelley in his 1985 book The Gold-Collar Worker: Harnessing the Brainpower of the New Work Force. Here he discussed a new generation of workers who use American business' most important resource, brainpower. A quote from the book summary states, "They are a new breed of workers, and they demand a new kind of management. Intelligent, independent, and innovative, these employees are incredibly valuable. They are scientists and mathematicians, doctors and lawyers, engineers and computer programmers, stock analysts and even community planners. They are as distinct from their less skilled white-collar counterparts—bank tellers, bookkeepers, clerks, and other business functionaries—as they are from blue-collar laborers. And they account for over 40 percent of America's workforce."
The color gold applies to these workers because they are highly skilled. When Kelley's book was published in 1985, these were typically understood as being young, college-educated, and specialized.
- Jayson, Sharon (2005-02-28). "New 'gold-collar' young workers gain clout". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
- Schermerhorn, John; Hunt, James; Osborn, Richard (2004). Core Concepts of Organizational Behavior. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley and Sons. p. 21. ISBN 0-471-39182-4.
- "Book summary by Robert E. Kelley". Archived from the original on July 27, 2007. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
- "Gold-collar worker". World Wide Words. 1997-04-05. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
- Robert Earl Kelley (1985). The Gold-Collar Worker: Harnessing the Brainpower of the New Work Force. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-11739-8.