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Social class: The ‘packaging’ and the realities

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Typical MSMEs in Nigeria.

Life is indeed transient, my father Chief Sehindemi Hezekiah Awe Olubiyi, JP left this world in the year 2020 and it feels just like yesterday. So with a keen desire, I write to reflect on social class particularly social mobility which is a concept I benefited and learnt from him during his lifetime. Social mobility, in my opinion, can be regarded as the movement of individuals, families, or groups through a system of social hierarchy. This means, when people improve or diminish their economic status in a way that affects social class, they experience social mobility. However, it makes a lot of sense to strive to improve it which is usually referred to as upward social mobility in that context. This upward mobility happens when a person moves from a lower position in society to a higher one. Most noticeably are the notable families and businesses in Lagos State the adjudged economic capital of the country. Arguably movement to Lagos State from huts, villages or towns around the country for greener pasture is due to this particular subject matter- social mobility. From observation, social mobility can either be an upward or downward change in position within the social class, occupation, and lifestyle. However, most people strive for upward social mobility because this improves social class and livelihood.

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It is important to note that upward social mobility is not only about becoming richer, having loads of cash and/or being famous. It can involve people earning high qualifications and university degrees, getting a significant career boost, doing well and raising the family wealth or even getting married to someone with a good status which can guarantee moving up socially and much more.

Largely, upward social mobility is more common where children or grandchildren are in economic circumstances, better than those of their parents or grandparents. Another example is a child of a village farmer who becomes a professor, definitely, upward social mobility has been achieved.

In contrast, downward mobility indicates a lowering of one’s social class and if you look around its more prevalent and troubling within our environment due to unemployment, a high number of out of school populace, business setbacks, pandemic, job losses, growing inequality, reduced economic opportunities and/or even illness. Just like we have seen poverty level on the rise the downward mobility of many of the populace has also been on the increase consistently. Many people have experienced economic setbacks, creating a wave of downward mobility in the country. This has continued to escalate the level of inequality and the growing gap between the haves and have nots in the country.

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It is important to mention that the level of social mobility in a society or country could be an indicator of the fairness of that society or country. A society with a high level of upward social mobility will provide equal opportunities for people to be rewarded for their efforts and talents, regardless of their background. In a society with a low level of social mobility, the social background will either be a barrier and inequality is rather prevalent. I leave you to determine what we currently have in the country based on this narrative.

From lessons learnt from my late father the revered entrepreneur, I can present the salient factors that promote upward social mobility. Firstly, the decision and conviction to take calculative risk is key and should be apparent. To arrive at huge success and upward social mobility there is a need for proactiveness and opportunity seeking. Do not get too comfortable with your current status, strive for improvement always though, let simplicity be a way of life. Therefore, it might be right to continue to aspire for greater heights and have dreams, vision and stay committed to them. It is also essential to get knowledge continually, which is upskilling, even when it does not seem like you need it. It is crucial to imbibe the culture of seeking sound and good education and be interested in other people’s success stories because it inspires. Furthermore, hard work is key and necessary, we plant, we water and only God can give the increase, so learn to support hard work with prayer. With that, I remember the law of gradual growth I learnt from him and the importance of giving thanks to God for every progress, in fact, celebrate it if you can. It further motivates. Regardless of any challenges ensure you do not give up, persist and understand that you must put in the efforts before you see the results.

For professionals and individuals, this is the time to consider less of “packaging”, which is actually putting up appearances, actions and behaviours in a certain way to boost a perceived social class or status. Instead explore social mobility with qualifications that are recognized across the world, this could be a winning strategy to stem the tide of any economic woes and ensure a quality livelihood beyond the shore of this country. A world-recognized qualification can offer opportunities regardless of your background, gender, race or religion and can just provide the upward social mobility needed without a logjam. That said, remember the chief maker of upward social mobility is either education or knowledge, but most times the combination of the two coupled with valuable information helps a great deal.

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In conclusion, just like social mobility in individuals and families it also happens in businesses, be it Micro, Small or Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs). The lack of social mobility is not only a family issue but also a business issue in the country. Records have shown that businesses are only as good as their employees. For instance, an individual born into a family on a low income is less likely to have the same opportunities as someone from a more privileged and well to do background despite talent and determination. Consequently, businesses have a key role to play in helping to create social mobility in the workplace. When businesses identify and recruit the best individuals regardless of gender, race or background, social mobility is improved and this, in turn, is vital for businesses to move from success to improved success. Therefore, employers and businesses should strive to recruit employees with talents irrespective of their backgrounds, who have different experiences, knowledge and who can tackle challenges in different ways. Businesses can benefit from this and have better decisions, improved performance, and better solutions. Responsible businesses, therefore, can explore workplace social mobility to maximize profitability, market share, sales and business growth. However, having a highly skilled, diverse workforce and equality in your business is key to these mentioned performance indicators. Good luck!

Dr. Olubiyi, Ph.D is an entrepreneurship & business management expert.

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