What Is Unskilled Labor?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 22, 2021 | Published April 17, 2020

Updated February 22, 2021

Published April 17, 2020

Unskilled labor is required in many sectors of the economy. Employers who hire unskilled labor typically don't require much training or experience from candidates. Understanding what unskilled labor is and the careers that make up the unskilled labor workforce can help determine if this is the right path for you. In this article, we define unskilled labor and semi-skilled labor, compare skilled and unskilled labor and list skilled and unskilled job types.

What is unskilled labor?

Unskilled labor refers to positions where individuals do not have to use skills, reasoning or intellectual abilities in their daily work activities. Unskilled labor usually has no specific educational requirement for its employees, which means unskilled jobs may be performed by most people. Unskilled labor jobs are crucial to businesses to keep them running smoothly and they account for a large part of the workforce today. Talents for operating machinery, managing repetitive tasks and implementing procedures are valued in unskilled labor positions.

Unskilled labor vs. skilled labor

Unskilled and skilled labor have many distinctions such as the education they require for hiring employees. Here are some other differences between skilled and unskilled labor:

Skilled labor

  • Requires employees to possess specific skills and talents that are used in their industry

  • Employees lend expertise, strategy and creativity to their jobs

  • Positions may require years of training

Unskilled labor

  • Doesn't require a specific set of skills or qualifications

  • Usually pays less than employees who work in skilled labor

  • Requires about a month of training

  • Doesn't contribute to decision making

Read more: Skilled Labor: What It Is, Skilled vs. Unskilled and Types of Skilled Labor Jobs

Types of unskilled labor

Industries that employ unskilled laborers include manufacturing, food, hospitality and agriculture. Though there are more industries to consider, here are some common types of unskilled labor positions in detail:

1. Food preparation worker

National average salary: $11.40 per hour

Primary duties: Food preparation workers are responsible for sanitizing and cleaning work areas for chefs, cooks or food service managers. They perform routine tasks such as preparing cold foods, peeling vegetables, slicing meat and brewing tea and coffee. This job does not require any formal education and may take several weeks of training.

2. Hotel housekeeper

National average salary: $11.47 per hour

Primary duties: Hotel maids are responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of hotel lobbies, common areas and guest rooms. They also replenish linens, clean rugs, upholstered furniture and use vacuum cleaners and carpet shampooers. High school diplomas are preferred for hotel housekeepers, but formal education is not required in most cases to become a hotel housekeeper.

Read more: Learn About Being a Housekeeper

3. Janitorial worker

National average salary: $11.58 per hour

Primary duties: A janitor is in charge of keeping a building clean and performing general facility repairs. They may work in schools, office buildings and hospitals. Janitorial jobs usually do not require a high school diploma, but candidates with a high school diploma may be more attractive to employers.

4. Agricultural worker

National average salary: $12.65 per hour

Primary duties: Agricultural workers inspect and harvest crops using farm tools and machinery or by hand. They also irrigate the soil and administer pesticide solutions to crops and spray fertilizer to encourage growth. Some agricultural workers deal with livestock herding and feeding. This position does not require formal education or prior experience.

5. Stocking associate

National average salary: $12.71 per hour

Primary duties: Stocking associates are responsible for receiving store shipments, stocking items in a store stockroom or warehouse and returning any defective merchandise. They may also assist with loading and unloading shipments. This position does require a high school diploma or GED to obtain.

Types of skilled labor

Skilled labor types have various categories ranging from manual workers to professional workers. Here are some types of skilled labor positions in detail:

1. Electrician

National average salary: $26.43 per hour

Primary duties: Electricians maintain and install power systems in factories, businesses, homes and hospitals. Electricians may work in maintenance or construction and specialize in residential, commercial, industrial, auto or other specializations. Electricians are responsible for reading blueprints and technical diagrams, maintaining wiring, identifying electrical problems, installing wiring, control and lighting systems as well as repairing or replacing damaged electrical wiring or equipment.

2. Law enforcement officer

National average salary: $26.74 per hour

Primary duties: Law enforcement officers or police officers maintain the peace and enforce laws by preventing and detecting crimes and arresting criminal offenders. The job duties of law officers may vary depending on their location. Officers in large cities may have different responsibilities than officers in small suburban or rural towns. To become a police officer, you must have a high school diploma or associate's degree depending on the police department you work for. This job requires employees to pass fitness tests before they become officers.

3. Human resources generalist

National average salary: $32.04 per hour

Primary duties: HR generalists manage the daily operations of a human resource department in a company. They handle training and development, benefits, compensation, employee relations and recruiting. This skilled position usually requires a bachelor's degree in human resources or business at a minimum.

4. Registered nurse

National average salary: $33.03 per hour

Primary duties: Registered nurses are in charge of providing treatment to patients with various medical conditions. Some of their responsibilities include checking vital signs, administering medication, monitoring patient recovery, consulting with other healthcare providers and managing medical records. An associate's degree or bachelor's degree is a minimum educational requirement for this position depending on the healthcare institution.

5. Attorney

National average salary: $49.55 per hour

Primary duties: Attorneys advise clients and represent their legal rights in a variety of cases. Attorney's responsibilities may vary depending on the type of law they practice. For instance, some attorneys may practice corporate law, residential law, criminal defense and others. This professional position requires highly-skilled individuals to have an undergraduate education, law school degree or Juris Doctor and passage of the Bar Examination.

Related: 10 Top Job Skills for Any Industry: Transferable Skills You Need

What is semi-skilled labor?

Semi-skilled labor is characterized by work that requires some attention to detail and a simple skill set for jobs that don't include complex tasks. Many semi-skilled positions require quality inspections, monitoring, repetitive tasks and a few months' worth of training. Some examples of semi-skilled jobs are:

  • Customer service representative

  • Bartender

  • Waiter

  • Flight attendant

  • Retail sales associate

  • Mover

  • Security guard

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