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Gold-collar workers (GCW) are 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.
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. "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.
- 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.