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In many countries (such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, 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 1935.
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.
Less physical activity among white-collar workers has been thought to a key factor in increased life-style related health conditions such as radiation sickness, fatigue, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and heart disease. Workplace interventions such as alternative activity workstations, sit-stand desks, promotion of stair use are among measures being implemented to counter the harms of sedentary workplace environments. A Cochrane systematic review published in 2016 concluded that "at present there is very low quality evidence that sit-stand desks can reduce sitting at work at the short term. There is no evidence for other types of interventions." Also, evidence was lacking on the long term health benefits of such interventions.
- Van Horn, Carl; Schaffner, Herbert (2003). Work in America: M-Z. CA, USA: ABC-Clio Ltd. p. 597. ISBN 9781576076767.
- Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition. Electronically indexed online document. White collar, usage 1, first example.
- Schröer, S; Haupt, J; Pieper, C (January 2014). "Evidence-based lifestyle interventions in the workplace--an overview.". Occupational Medicine. 64 (1): 8–12. doi:10.1093/occmed/kqt136. PMID 24280187. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
- Commissaris, DA; Huysmans, MA; Mathiassen, SE; Srinivasan, D; Koppes, LL; Hendriksen, IJ (18 December 2015). "Interventions to reduce sedentary behavior and increase physical activity during productive work: a systematic review.". Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health. 42: 181–91. doi:10.5271/sjweh.3544. PMID 26683116. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
- Shrestha, N; Kukkonen-Harjula, KT; Verbeek, JH; Ijaz, S; Hermans, V; Bhaumik, S (17 March 2016). "Workplace interventions for reducing sitting at work.". The Cochrane database of systematic reviews: CD010912. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010912.pub3. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
- 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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