What Is Unskilled Labour? (With Examples and Salaries)

By Indeed Editorial Team

November 24, 2021

Many sectors of the economy require unskilled or semi-skilled labour. Employers who hire for unskilled or semi-skilled jobs typically require a modest amount of training or experience from candidates. Understanding what these types of labour are and which careers are available for each can help you decide if semi-skilled or unskilled work is right for you. In this article, we answer "What is unskilled labour?" and contrast it with semi-skilled work, explore job options for each, and list their average national salaries and primary tasks.

What is unskilled labour?

If you're wondering "What is unskilled labour?", this refers to jobs that don't require a specific educational background and that most people can perform. Regular unskilled work duties may involve limited responsibility, and you can typically learn the skills required through training on the job .

Many organizations value unskilled employees because these jobs keep them operating smoothly and can account for a large portion of their workforce. You may find unskilled work in jobs that involve operating simple machinery or completing repetitive duties. Unskilled labour doesn't require a special set of skills or qualifications, so semi-skilled and skilled labour jobs may offer higher salaries.

Related: What Is On-the-Job Training? (With Tips and Benefits)

Types of unskilled labour

Industries that employ unskilled labourers include manufacturing, food, hospitality, and agriculture. Here are some common types of unskilled labour positions and salaries:

1. Food preparation worker

National average salary: $15.03 per hour

Primary duties: Food preparation workers sanitize and clean work areas for chefs, cooks, or food service managers. They perform routine tasks such as preparing cold food, peeling vegetables, slicing meat, and brewing tea and coffee. Fast food restaurants employ food preparation workers to perform many duties, including taking customer orders, operating a cash register, cooking and preparing food, and packing orders. This job doesn't require any formal education and may involve several weeks of training.

2. Hotel or residence housekeeper

National average salary: $16.91 per hour

Primary duties: Hotel and residence housekeepers maintain the cleanliness of hotel lobbies, common areas, and guest or client rooms. They also replenish linens, clean rugs, upholstered furniture, and use vacuum cleaners and carpet shampooers. Working in a residential setting as a housekeeper, such as a long-term care facility, requires some experience being part of a team and engaging with residents and families. Good physical condition and endurance can allow housekeepers to complete their work on schedule. Most employers prefer to hire housekeepers with a high school diploma, but formal education isn't a requirement.

3. Janitorial worker or cleaner

National average salary: $16.42 per hour

Primary duties: A janitorial worker or cleaner keeps a building clean and performs general facility repairs. They may work in schools, office buildings, factories, and hospitals. Attention to detail and efficient time management are the qualities employers typically look for when hiring cleaning staff. Janitorial or cleaner jobs don't require a high school diploma, but candidates with a diploma may appeal more to employers or be more likely to receive opportunities for promotions.

4. Seasonal associate

National average salary: $15.20 per hour

Primary duties: Seasonal associates perform different unskilled jobs across a variety of sectors. For example, you may temporarily work in a retail environment over the busy holiday season. Seasonal associates typically stock products on shelves and racks, or serve customers in person, online, or over the telephone. They also work in agricultural settings, which can involve picking fruit or vegetables and packing food into cartons for delivery. This position doesn't require formal education or prior experience.

5. Stocking associate

National average salary: $15.11 per hour

Primary duties: Stocking associates receive store shipments, stock items in a storeroom or warehouse, and return defective or unwanted merchandise. They may also assist with loading and unloading shipments. Stocking associates can work in any location with quantities of goods organized on pallets, skids, or racks, such as warehouses, retail stores, or factories. This position often requires a high school diploma or equivalent.

6. Construction labourer or helper

National average salary: $17.51 per hour

Primary duties: Construction labourers or helpers demolish structures at work sites, clean up building sites, and drive building materials from warehouses to job locations. They may also assist skilled trades employees, such as carpenters and plumbers, by moving materials or holding them in place for installation. This position doesn't require any experience or formal education. Like other unskilled jobs, working as a construction labourer or helper usually requires the physical strength and endurance to lift heavy supplies, climb ladders and scaffolds, and move constantly throughout the work shift.

7. Delivery driver

National average salary: $18.65 per hour

Primary duties: Delivery drivers work across multiple sectors, couriering packages from warehouses to retail locations, laboratories, and people's homes. Delivery drivers sometimes supply their own vehicles to perform the job or drive company-owned cars, vans, or trucks. This position doesn't require any experience or formal education. A driving license with a clear criminal record, knowledge of a geographical area, and punctuality are typically essential.

What is semi-skilled labour?

Semi-skilled labour typically requires more qualifications than unskilled labour, but fewer than skilled positions. This type of work typically demands attention to detail and a simple skill set that you can gain through experience and some education. Many semi-skilled positions involve monitoring a customer space, performing repetitive tasks, making quick decisions, and completing several months of training.

Read more: The Definition and Benefits of a Semi-Skilled Worker

Types of semi-skilled labour

Semi-skilled labourers work under general supervision to perform a variety of tasks related to construction, maintenance, customer service, travel, hospitality, tourism, and transportation. Here are some semi-skilled labour positions and salaries:

1. Customer service representative

National average salary: $16.89 per hour

Primary duties: Customer service representatives work where customers need a front-line response from an organization. Typical employers include insurance and financing companies, automotive dealerships, retail stores, and call and messaging centres. Customer service representatives may greet visitors, determine their needs, respond to telephone inquiries, and gather information to complete forms and protocols. Some key qualities for CSRs can include verbal and written communication skills, the ability to manage changing priorities in a fast-paced environment, and a focus on detail to meet customer needs. These positions often require a high school diploma or equivalent.

2. Server

National average salary: $14.30 per hour

Primary duties: Servers may deliver orders and offer personalized service to guests in restaurants and bars. Their typical duties include taking orders accurately, suggesting food and drinks, bringing orders promptly, clearing tables, and managing payments. Multi-tasking, active listening, and communication skills can help servers perform all these tasks effectively. These positions typically have no educational requirements, as long as you're of legal age, possess regulatory certification to serve alcohol, and can stand for several hours while carrying orders to customers. Servers can also increase their income through customer tips, which may even exceed their hourly wage.

3. Flight attendant

National average salary: $25.72 per hour

Primary duties: Flight attendants work on airplanes to ensure the safety and comfort of customers onboard. The position typically involves preparing, serving, and re-stocking in-flight beverages and food. Customer service skills are critical for flight attendants as they greet passengers, help with carry-on baggage, and deliver onboard announcements. Other important skills can include assisting in emergency situations, calming passengers, and addressing medical issues.

This position typically requires a high school diploma or equivalent and some training by the airline. Because extensive travel is a part of the job, flight attendants hold a valid passport and travel frequently for long periods of time, often working shifts of up to 16 hours for longer flights.

4. Truck driver

National average salary: $23.56 per hour

Primary duties: Truck drivers deliver goods over long or short distances in a range of sectors. Their duties may include driving a truck along established routes to deliver goods to customers, moving heavy items during the delivery process, and staying alert during long trips to maintain road safety. This position often requires a high school diploma or equivalent, a valid driver's license with a clean driving record, experience in customer service, and meeting any regulations for driving vehicles with specific types or amounts of goods.

5. Security guard

National average salary: $16.81 per hour

Primary duties: Security guards may work for private security firms, for the government, and in public institutions such as hospitals and schools. Guards can conduct surveillance to detect and apprehend trespassers or shoplifters, follow strict procedures and protocols, write incident reports according to guidelines, and represent the organization professionally, including in court-related proceedings. This position requires a high school diploma, valid security license, and a college diploma in a law enforcement or security program.

Related: Security Guard Skills: Definition and Examples

6. Parts counter person or specialist

National average salary: $18.92 per hour

Primary duties: A parts counter person or parts specialist works in automotive shops, factories, and retail stores. This job involves understanding all available products, which specific problems they can solve, and how to use an inventory system to access parts. They may also assist with loading and unloading parts shipments. This position often requires a high school diploma or equivalent and some experience or specialized training by the employer. Customer service and communication skills are key for this job, as you may listen closely to customers' problems and show empathy for their concerns.

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