The modern workforce has for a long time been split between blue collar and white collar workers. This categorisation has, for years, worked and has made the distinction between employees who earn weekly wages and those with advanced professional qualifications who take home a monthly salary. More recently, though, academics and human resources specialists have realised that relying on just two colours does not distinguish between the multitude of job types and burgeoning subcategories of worker now in the employment market. So, new 'coloured collars' are appearing - notably pink, green, brown, grey and gold - each intended to reflect an aspect of social and economic change. And, while some of these newer designations are more apposite than others, it certainly pays to understand the major themes and to form an idea of what the future implications might be for general employment prospects, job creation and society. According to Flora Yu Kit-yee, executive director of The Women's Foundation, Hong Kong, a charity promoting equal access and opportunities for women, the pink collar worker designates more feminine workers, but this may be a detrimental label. That, stereotypically, means being quiet, patient and detail-minded. The many roles for this category are mostly service-oriented and, traditionally, bring low salaries and low prestige. They include jobs as elementary school teachers, nurses, home caretakers, receptionists, executive assistants and flight attendants. 'The concept of the pink collar is a result of gender stereotyping,' Ms Yu said. 'It reflects the widespread [perception] of women as people caring for others.' Her concern is that if these views are continually reinforced they will push more women towards jobs that pay less and discourage thoughts of moving up the corporate ladder or into key leadership positions in other fields, a situation Ms Yu does not want to see. Green collar workers represent the environmentally conscious sector of society. People in this segment include environmental architects, conservationists and campaigners battling to implement green policies and better our collective future. Increasing government and private sector awareness should encourage investment in these areas to rise. Kevin Gulley, chief executive and publisher of Green Collar Media, a company that helps other businesses adopt better environmental practices, said: 'My guess is that green collar jobs will be a real growth sector throughout Asia.' He said there was a clear trend for highly skilled workers in other industries to gravitate towards such jobs, which now offered prestige, reasonable pay and a career path. Lisa Catanzarite, a Washington State University leading researcher of labour trends, has been credited with coining the term brown collar. She used it to describe workers who did physically demanding jobs in construction, manufacturing, delivery services, gardening and waste removal. These positions were filled by less advantaged members of society such as immigrants and racial minorities. Professor Catanzarite said there was some overlap between some of the poorest paid jobs in the blue collar sector and those in the brown, but those in the brown required fewer technical skills. A clear description for grey collar workers eludes because there appears to be two contrasting definitions. Kate Hutchings, associate professor in the department of management at Monash University's Clayton campus, in a suburb outside of Melbourne, Australia, said that the common usage in western countries referred to the grey hair of ageing populations continuing to work beyond retirement age. The reason might be financial necessity, or to maintain interest and involvement in one's later years. She said that this description was certainly true in the 1980s, but that since the 1990s, grey collar has been used more to refer to technical workers. This is especially true in China, where the term typically relates to technicians because they wear grey uniforms, and grey skills can extend to those with specialist computer knowledge and practical mechanical skills. The mainland's rapidly expanding economy has seen a critical shortage of such personnel, with some estimates suggesting that they account for only about 4 per cent of the workforce - much less than needed. Whatever the definition, though, it seems clear there will be increasing numbers of both types of grey collar worker. In the broader, social, context technicians will be in strong demand to keep an increasingly hi-tech world turning. And many of the older generation will probably have to keep earning in the face of reduced pension support and the risk of diminishing nest eggs. Another area in which the mainland and the west appear to use the same term with a twist is the gold collar worker. Mainlanders use this to describe someone with a gilded youth, the single child of comparatively well-to-do parents, brought up in an affluent home and probably with a tertiary-level education. But, despite these apparent advantages that gold collar workers have, many now face considerable problems as the global economy goes into reverse. They may have the education and ability to hold down high-flying jobs but find that the openings are just not there. According to articles published last year by United States magazine Psychology Today and Xinhua, China has more than 4 million university graduates a year but only 1.6 million college-level jobs are created each year. Similar patterns are developing in other countries, with young people who previously assumed they had the world at their feet now facing an intense struggle to secure full-time employment. They are fast realising that a childhood sense of entitlement will not get them far in a brutally competitive job market. However, Peter Holland, a lecturer in the department of management, faculty of business and economics at Monash University, sought to dispel ideas that China's gold collar workers were slow to adapt. He said they were not lazy and would work long hours to upgrade their skills and continue to be sought after in the labour market. He said those who were doing well were fully aware of their value to present and potential employers. 'Their loyalty is to their careers,' he said. 'They need to be challenged and must continually seek new experiences.' The western interpretation of a gold collar worker can be traced to a 2005 study conducted by global market research company Synovate. The study highlighted the fact that many people in the US in the 18 to 25 age group were far outspending their means. They worked in various service industry jobs, retail sales, catering or security. But, through a combination of parental handouts, loans and credit card debt, they maintained a 'gold-trimmed' lifestyle and spent extravagantly on designer clothing and other luxury items. Many of them have now discovered that this collar comes with an extremely heavy chain attached. Multicollared New classifications of worker are being defined in a changing economy The colour of each 'collar' is intended to identify a specific subsector of the working population The number of green and grey collar jobs is expected to grow at a significant pace in China and the west Gold collar workers in the mainland will have to work hard to compete'