A blue collar worker is a member of the working class who performs manual labor (or elementary work as stated in the table) and earns an hourly wage or a meager monthly wage. Blue collar workers are distinguished from service workers and from white
collar workers, whose jobs aren’t considered manual labor. However, some service workers are often referred to as blue collar workers. Blue collar workers may be skilled or unskilled, and may involve factory work, maintenance, or technical installations. With the abundance of population in Pakistan it is imperative that there is a lack of jobs available to the population. Most people end up taking up any sort of jobs available, which generally end being the Blue collar ones. According to 2001 statistics, Pakistan houses 7.8 million blue collar workers. With such a great number it is apparent that people begin to understand their importance and give them their due as there is a general conception that society considers blue collar workers to be taken for granted and mistreats them.
Pakistan is a rapidly developing country which has faced a number on challenges on both the political and economic fronts. Despite being a very poor country in 1947, Pakistan’s economic growth rate was better than the global average during the subsequent four decades, but imprudent policies led to a decline in the late 1990’s largely due to political instability. Recently, wide ranging economic reforms have resulted in a stronger economic out look and accelerated growth especially in the manufacturing and financial service sectors. However the western world and the Japanese have evolved industries to new heights, leaving second and third world countries like Pakistan far behind. Most of the theories and technologies used by them in almost every field are normally only used by us when the west terms them obsolete.
Once such field that has generally found Pakistan left wanting is “Human Resources” or HR as it is popularly termed. Of all the resources available at a management’s disposal the human factor is the most difficult resource to control. Human resource refers to individuals who make a vital contribution to the attainment of management goals.
It should be the goal of every manager to get the best out of his staff thereby increasing productivity and in turn profit. Now in order to influence the workers, managers need to understand three elements of the workers nature:
1) Attitude: is a predisposition to react to a certain person, concept or situation with a particular response.
2) Perception: is the physiological process of selecting stimuli, organizing data into patterns and interpreting that information.
3) Job satisfaction: to a worker’s sense of achievement and success.
In the ever evolving business world, completion is so great that every organization has to continuously increase its effectiveness and efficiency in order to survive. A management has to achieve the perfect balance between keeping workers happy and work related stress levels in order to get the best out of their workers.
People want to feel that they are making a difference, especially when it comes to the jobs they do. When workers are aware that their work makes a difference to other, even in small ways, their job satisfaction rises and so does their productivity!
However it is very unfortunate that in Karachi, or Pakistan too for that matter, little official right or respect is given to human resource workers due to inefficient human resource capabilities. Those who tend to get the worst of the deal are blue collar workers.
A blue collar worker is a member of the working class who performs manual labor (or elementary work as stated in the table) and earns an hourly wage or a meager monthly wage. Blue collar workers are distinguished from service workers and from white collar workers, whose jobs aren’t considered manual labor. However, some service workers are often referred to as blue collar workers. Blue collar workers may be skilled or unskilled, and may involve factory work, maintenance, or technical installations. According to 2001 statistics, Pakistan houses 7.8 million blue collar workers. With such a great number it is apparent that people begin to understand their importance and give them their due.
For this sample study ten people were chosen, all of whom are blue collar workers from a variety of fields. On the following page is a list of the interviewed candidates and their profession.
Due to various constraints a quota sample to include the following groups was made, ( persons selected form the group has the number mentioned in brackets as per the table on the following page, one person may be included in more than one group):
1) Contractors (6)
2) Law enforcement (7)
3) Under age laborers (4)
4) Immigrants workers (5)
5) Skilled professionals (1,2 and 8)
6) Running a meagerly business (3)
7) Employees involved in maintenance (4, 9 and 10)
8) Religious minority (10)
9) Working in the same organization (9 and 10)
10) Elderly workers (5)
Next we interviewed the 50 members of general public as to what they felt about the blue collar workers, and what they would do if they were blue collar workers.
As the report shall be based on three aspects, a questionnaire was designed on various aspects of the persons work to be filled in by direct interviews of ten blue collar workers. The second part consists of questionnaires filled in by the general public as to their views on the blue collar workers and what they would do in their place. This would provide the data for the study. Analysis of this data would provide us with information with which we could work to achieve the objective.
Inefficiencies in methodology:
As most of the selected persons were illiterate, all answers were filled in by the interviewer thereby causing the following inaccuracies:
1) There was a language difference, the questionnaire was in English where as all answers were given in the native language of Urdu.
2) As the questions were rather personal they could be the subject to bias for eg. Zareena claimed her salary was rs.500 however on consultation with her management it was found that it was almost the same as her colleague, Daniel Bhutta that is rs. 3000.
3) The questionnaires filled in by the general public were not necessarily filled in with all earnest.
(The data from each question has been sub-divided into headings)
“How did you get into your current line of work?”
The most striking observation here is that 6 out of the 10 people interviewed were influenced to start their current line of work by peers, two were forced to by circumstance and only two followed their passion.
“Do you like your present work?”
Evidently all, except one person were satisfied with their work. The chart below gives stereotyped reasons for liking/disliking their work, showing the personal reasons and passion factors to the most dominant:
“Do you possess any other skills?”
6 out of the 8 males have other skills as carpentry, driving etc however only one, the policeman – nadeem akhtar, has a skill that could potentially make him a white collar worker. None of the females on the other hand possess skills.
“About you present work:
What do you like most?
What makes you unhappy?
The Above table depicts the nature of the various answers that were given.
a) Reasons given for liking work
Nature of Job 5
a) Reasons given for disliking work
Nature of Job 3
Respect not given 4
Lack of compensation 2
“Is there any aspect of your work that you would like to change?”
The following graph shows the frequency of answers given, most of which were pertaining to job timings, pay and management.
“Are your earnings sufficient to support your family?”
Unsurprisingly all the answers were impulsively “NO!!”. the general expenditures mentioned in the order of most to least mentioned were
5. Sibling/children education
6. Medical bills
Note: In most cases the candidate was not the only earning member of the family.
“Given your present circumstances which would you prefer?”
a- A new job
b- a new job in a different field
c- self employment/ business
d- remain in the current position
The Following Graph shows each answer chosen:
“Which of the four values do you desire most from your work place?
d- Social interaction
The Following graph shows the frequency of each answer chosen:
Attitude is a predisposition to react to a certain person, concept or situation with a particular response. Attitude generally varies from person to person and place to place. It is a self learned action developed by past observation, experiences and influence of others attitudes,
“Are your earnings sufficient to support your family?”
The answer to this question was always a “no”, but it showed a common affective attitude in all subjects. The latter part of the question showed a cognitive character about what each worker feels about his house hold expenditures. It can safely be concluded that rent tops this list as shown earlier.
“What keeps you motivated to work?”
A variety of answers were given to this question, which portray how different people have different attitudes. The predominant motivating factor was survival and providing for their families, such employees have no personal ambitions, no desire for any sort of career growth. They simply wish to do their duties and get paid; they rant for more salary but do not strive to validate such action. Such an attitude was found with contracted construction worker.
Another type of attitude shown by the candidates was spiritually based behavior, these people recline themselves into believing that God has put them where they are because of His design. They show similar work ethics as those people who work to survive, these people however tend to be more sincere and honest in their work and try harder to accomplish tasks and please managers. Such an attitude was found with the pan vendor.
The third type of attitude that could be observed was “work to earn” behavior. These people would generally work harder than the other two mentioned above as they wish for carrier growth and pay improvements. Such an attitude was found with both female and domestic servants.
Arguably, the most productive workers are those people who had a dispositional approach to their work. These people actually believe they are working for a greater cause and that their work can bring benefits either to themselves or society. Such an attitude was found with the policeman, i.e. “doing a public service.”
“How does your family feel about your line of work?”
This question revealed the attitude of the workers family towards his/her line of work. The answers revealed three trends:
1) Discontent- Mainly due to the pay scale. Such negative influence tends to have a reducing effect on the workers productivity.
2) Acceptance- they accept the fact that improvement in the standard of living is difficult to achieve and therefore do not aim to pursue a better one.
3) Appreciation – they acknowledge the effort put in and happy and in some cases proud that the person in question is earning and providing for them.
“Which of the 4 values mentioned below do you value most from your work place?”
D- Social interaction
With reference to the above values, compensation and recognition were the most desirable. Given the low standards of living, compensation was desirable since it is difficult to make ends meet. The desire for recognition is a cultural demand since eastern cultures greatly emphasize on self worth and pride
In the physiological process of selecting stimuli, organizing it into recognizable pasterns and interpreting that information. The perceptual process is the series of actions and in that individuals follow in order to select, organize and interpret stimuli from the environment.
“Mention things you like and dislike about your management? Are you satisfied with your management’s policy and rules? How do you feel about your work environment?
This question was subject to a lot of bias as the workers seemed hesitant to answer this question as they feared their answers would reach their management which in some cases indicates that they are not satisfies and in others just shows a cautionary measure,
Many cases indicated good treatment by the managers, a decent working environment and freedom of performance.
Most complaints were about being reprimanded in some cases not being given enough importance, aside from that some complained that their work was unappreciated as it was deemed as requiring very little skill. There were also complaints about communication barriers and lack of importance to feedback.
Four of the ten people were satisfied with their management policies. The other six generally complained about policies on punctuality, customer treatment, dress code and demands for greater productivity.
It appeared they had no complaints against the work environment. The main reason for this is social interaction. Domestic workers were treated like it was their house;
Those working in organizations enjoyed the fact that there was a multitude of staff to interact with. One the contractor complained of the physical conditions of his environment but that had more to do with the nature of his job.
“Why do you people prefer self employment?”
What are the drawbacks of self employment?”
Only pan vendor was self employed and the only advantage he saw was that he did not have to share the benefits that came of his labor. The drawback that he saw was that his earnings were unstable.
“Is there any religious/racial oppression in you workplace?”
Eight of the ten people interviewed claimed that there was no religious or racial oppression in the workplace. The contractor and Rubina (domestic servant) mentioned of racial bias at their workplace. The policeman mentioned slight religious prejudice.
Pertains to a workers sense of achievement and success.
Job satisfaction refers to how content an individual is with his/her job. It covers everything from working environment to pay and to the job description. It was startling to note that none of them showed any interest towards career betterment however it is quite understandable since in their level of education and range of pat if it is not possible to do so and most of them were just happy to put food on the table.
When asked if they would like to change any aspect of their work, three of the ten people were happy with their work and desired no change. The other seven generally wanted changes in the work hours and pay scales. Only the policeman complained about corruption and illegal pressure from high ups.
Analysis of the Questionnaires
A second questionnaire was floated among general public mainly to I.o.B.M. students to know their views and reviews regarding what they think about blue collar workers.
It was observed that a major proportion of people were aware of who the blue collar workers are and their job specifications. People were also generally aware of the fact that without the presence of blue collar workers, some of the major tasks cannot be accomplished like jobs involving cleaning, caretaker (guards), and assembly line workers in factories.
According to them blue collar workers though given little regard and respect, play a major role in society.
A major proportion of people also included them into appropriate human resources giving them much importance, which they duly deserve. Most of the people thought that blue collar workers should be ‘treated with respect and let them do their jobs’ while another portion thought them to ‘treat them as an equal to every employee in the firm’. Such respect would ultimately enhance their performance. A minority were of the opinion blue collar workers should be treated “kindly, in order to nurture them into doing their work well” and no one believed that they should be treated harshly.
Another factor that people agreed to was: performance appraisal in the form of rewards would improve the efficiency of the work.
People thought that blue collar workers need a little or an average education, mainly showing skepticism. But keeping in mind the state of our city Karachi where poverty rate is high due to illiteracy, education needs to be spread to such people even at a lower level.
Majority agreed that in near future years, technological revolutions could be a threat to blue collar jobs. One such example can be quoted of the wide use of vacuum cleaners at home, cutting off the jobs of maids. Also the trend of Day-Care centers has reduced ample jobs of baby sitters.
Lastly the students were given a scenario to imagine them selves as blue collar workers at I.o.B.M. or any industrial firm and suggest a salary. The range usually lied between Rs.3000 to 6000. There were mixed opinions regarding whether blue collar work would sit well with their families, some people gave their answers relative to their families financial situation, others clearly showed signs of fear and linked being a blue collar worker with failure hence believed that their would be discontent with such work.
Also when the desired value from this work place was asked, it varied through depending upon people’s perceptions of what life as a blue collar worker would be like. Compensation stood out as the most common answer with a few people preferring recognition and status. Just the odd person wanted career growth; social interaction and spiritual satisfaction were given no importance at all.
“Money makes the world go round,” it was clear that both parties were mostly concerned with money. They realized that as not too much qualification is required for blue collar work it is only fair that the income gained from it is meager. Though most of the blue collar workers have made a livelihood out of what they do, students associate such jobs with poverty and a degradation of their current status.
Surprisingly, a stark contrast arose between the public and workers when they work asked about job satisfaction. It was emphasized by 90% of the workers being satisfied with their work, being disgruntled only about timing issues or wanting a raise (which is only natural as white collar workers tend to have the same complaints). The students on the other hand did not take a fancy to life as blue collar workers and implied their disposition on blue collar workers in general assuming they were all unsatisfied with their work.
The study further made eminent the difference in values engrained in both parties. Whereas the people were more concerned with financial, social and growth issues the blue collar workers had a more spiritual side active in them and were concerned about the well being of their families. The blue collar workers also appeared to be short sighted, focusing on achieving short term goals such as paying bills.
It is interesting to see how many blue collar workers underestimate themselves and their abilities. On further interaction with them it can be observed that they are intelligent but due to illiteracy and poverty their resources are limited and they can’t utilize it. Therefore in this light it must be seen that their opinions are rather limited and they are less prone to any risk taking behavior due to the high rates of unemployment. In many cases they have simply accepted their fair which is what there no incentive for career betterment or job rotation is. A lot of their decisions are based n the fact that they can always be replaced due to the nature of their work. Culture and religion seem to influence their work to a substantial degree and in some cases hold them back. Work place values are concentrated on recognition and compensation, unlike the western world where social interaction seems to play a much greater role.
It is apparent that their lives are full of struggle and based on survival which is their primary aim which is why their productivity suffers as there is no motivation to advance.
Demographics also play an important role in their careers. These people are held down by a large number of dependants and most of them do not contribute to the family income.
The fact remains however that the general public is only aware of the presence of blue collar workers and how to treat them. Beyond such common knowledge there is a lack of application of this concept nor is there any real desire to actually take blue collar workers seriously. Therein the hypothesis is proved to be true.
With a new breed of HR professionals coming through institutions it is important that they are trained in order to keep both the blue collar workers and the management happy.
? Certo, Samuel C. Modern Management. Singapore: Pretice Hall, 2002.
? Dickson, John W., and Rogene A. Buchholz. “DIFFERENCES IN BELIEFS ABOUT WORK BETWEEN MANAGERS AND BLUE-COLLAR WORKERS.” Blackwell Synergy. 1979.
? “Pakistan.” Wikipedia.
? Statistics taken from Economic Survey of Pakistan.