Labouring over labourers

Some people claim that working hours for labours in factories are too long.

Here an Indonesian IELTS candidate is trying to find a synonym for worker, but has ended up using the wrong word form, and possibly even an inappropriate word.

In English a labourer ('labour' + 'er') does work that distinguishes him or her from other kinds of worker:

  • Labourers are usually unskilled.
  • Labourers often have to use physical strength because their work requires them to lift and carry things.
  • The work of labourers is generally outdoor work.
  • Labouring is often dirty work.
  • Labouring is not very well paid in most countries.
a factory worker

Factory work involves a certain amount of skill, and cannot be referred to as labour.

Here are some pictures of labourers.

If you are looking for the right synonym for worker then first of all consider:

  • where the work takes place
  • the level of skill involved
  • the salary it attracts

These considerations will lead you to a more apprpriate label for the work you are referring to. In IELTS a more appropriate label will get you a higher score for Lexical Resource (vocabulary).

Labour - Word forms and idioms

Labourer - the person (countable)

Labour - noun (uncountable, abstract) Can mean:

  • the name of a political party in the UK
  • the group of people who generally work as labourers
  • the effort required to perform tasks that are physically demanding but unskilled

Labour - verb

Laborious - adjective (Even skilled work can be 'laborious', especially if it requires physical effort or is repetitive).

Hard labour - A form of punishment used by tyrannical governments, often for political prisoners. If my work feels like hard labour, it's very hard work!

(to be) + in labour - Giving birth!

Labour over something - Work extra hard at a task.