Blue Collar Boom

Posted by Flux on 

26 June 2023

What’s trending?
Young people, particularly in China, have taken to rejecting white collar jobs in favour of blue collar ones. In China, this is a part of a larger trend known as taking off “Kong Yiji’s long gown,” which refers to college graduates who consider themselves above manual labour. Many of this generation are seeking out jobs as baristas, cashiers or tour guides, hoping to find balance in their lives through “mindless” menial tasks. On Xiaohongshu, China’s version of Instagram, the hashtag “my first physical-work experience” has more than 30 million views as of June 12. In the US, the Biden administration has been pushing for a blue collar boom through bringing more manufacturing to the country. This comes as the IT sector sheds jobs.

Why is it important?
With high levels of unemployment in many countries around the world, young people are coming to realise that academic qualifications no longer guarantee a satisfactory job. “People are taking a good hard look at the rise of the cost of college tuition, the less security offered by white collar jobs. And all of a sudden white collar jobs don’t look as fabulous in comparison,”  said Kristen Lucas, associate professor of business at the University of Louisville. Many cite an increased sense of fulfilment from blue collar jobs, as white collar employment makes some feel like a cog in the machine. Younger workers are redefining success and have begun to prioritise a better quality of life as many high paying jobs come with overwork and high pressure. The “lying flat” movement, which emerged in China, is a silent rebellion against a culture of too much pressure. 

What can businesses do about it?
There’s a shift in attitude towards blue collar work which is gaining respect. This trend suggests that employees are increasingly prioritising fulfilment and quality of life, both of which can – with some effort – be incorporated into white collar work. Communicating how an employee’s contribution impacts the organisation as a whole, would make them feel less like a number and add to a greater sense of meaning. Promoting a culture where work\life balance is supported and encouraged would also lead to greater retainment of younger staff disillusioned with overworking. It remains to be seen whether this trend gains momentum around the world, but it is consistent with global attitudes among the youth of a disengagement from the long-hours, high-octane grind. 

By Faeeza Khan

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