What does a Laborer do?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2019
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A laborer is a person who engages in physical labor that is considered unskilled. In many areas, this is a position associated with construction and may involve unions and adequate pay. In other places, laborers have very few rights and experience dangerous conditions for little pay. While the term laborer is usually used for a person who is considered unskilled, laborers are usually expected to provide their own tools and possess a basic knowledge of construction. The work performed by a laborer may include carrying objects, drilling, or performing yard work, along with a wide variety of other tasks.

In areas where laborers have a union and receive adequate pay, the tasks they are expected to do are usually not exceptionally hazardous, although they may be unpleasant. Laborers in these areas typically perform work that requires less skill and more physical prowess than other jobs. When workers of a more advanced position have duties that require minimal skill, these are often handed off to laborers. The exact duties a laborer can perform depend on the area and the kind of project at hand.


Beyond this formal job title of laborer, there are also people who perform labor for money but not as a profession. These people are sometimes called day laborers, and they work on specific projects for an amount of pay that differs for each job. People who perform this kind of work often hope to obtain more permanent employment and use these jobs as stepping stones. Day laborers are not often expected to have extensive construction skills and more frequently work on jobs such as painting or gardening.

While laborer, when associated with a union, is a term almost exclusively used for construction, some people consider people who work in fields or factories laborers as well. In many countries, people who work in places such as textile factories or assembly lines are considered laborers. Sometimes the age of the people performing labor to create a product becomes a deciding factor when consumers decide whether to purchase an item. The kind of worker used to create a product can affect a consumer's decision to buy that product, so people who hire laborers should be careful to pay their workers properly and abide by labor laws.

Throughout history and across the world, the poorest members of society have filled the role of laborer. With the effects of immigration, that role has often been associated with an ethnic identity. For example, at one point in history, Chinese people made up a large part of the American labor force, while at another, black people made up the majority. Racist stereotypes about the group performing physical labor and stereotypes about the work itself have created a job that is forever marred by negative opinions. It is very important to remember that the desire to work and provide for one’s self and one’s family is something most people share and that laborer, union or not, is a job like any other.


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