The Uber driver-lawyer story and why we need to stop stigmatising blue collar jobs

Blue collar jobs

The term “Blue-Collar” is being stigmatised by not recognising the fundamental issue, forgetting that those jobs are necessary to making and maintaining the things we live by and use every day and will use in the foreseeable future.

Blue collar skills are in short supply because their very nature and workplace environment have been stigmatised by parents and guardians who had achieved financial security as blue-collar workers themselves and envisioned higher education and consequent white collar job as a pathway to greater (and cleaner) success then they had achieved.

“How would my son be a driver when he can be an Engineer?,” an average parent would say.

The inspiration?

My Uber driver yesterday is a lawyer. After payment, I went to search his name on NBA portal. Lo and behold, he’s a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. It is not well.

@mrfestusogun on Twitter

After a backlash, Festus Ogun ‘corrected’ or ‘explained’ himself, saying his tweet was taken out of context.

“Quite surprising that my armless tweet was taken out of context my many. Let me quickly take the blame for not putting it in proper context.I am not saying a lawyer doing Uber is bad. I’m simply saying learned counsel suspended law practice to focus on Uber. It is worrying,” Festus Ogun wrote later.

The previous tweet is still up.

The problem

Blue-Collar workers are highly skilled workers whose jobs are necessary for making, and maintaining, the things we use every day and will use in the foreseeable future.

Gerson Ecker

The parents have passed that stigmatisation disposition to the generation after them, so, the idea that blue collar jobs should not be on the agenda has become more general than expected, such that even finance enlightenment may have help in no way in that aspect.

Eric Schulzke, in an article on the stigma against blue collar work, argued that, “Many have long argued that the emphasis on four-year college degrees has obscured high-value career paths that are more technical and hands on.”

Schulzke also made an argument against the idea that college graduates make more than others.

He found that “20 percent of technical certificate holders make more than the average [Bachelor of the Arts], while 30 per cent of associate’s degrees earn more than the average four-year graduate. And that, he says, holds true not just after graduation, but 20 years after as well.”

Without looking at the data, it can be argued that blue collar workers in Nigeria earn as much as good paying jobs, and sometimes more.

Let us use the case of an Uber driver in Lagos.

Uber driver does five trips in one day, each worth an average 3000. If he is religious, we can say he works six days in one week.

That gives him 90,000 naira in one week, and 360,000 naira in one month.

After expenses, and fees to be paid, the driver can possibly go home with 270,000 naira every month. Many times more.

But, many people don’t understand the economics of this and have deemed physical work as inferior to office jobs. 

Blue collar work is necessary for society to function. Where would society be without mechanics? The average person can’t always fix their car and rely on mechanics to do it for them. People in these careers build houses, lay bricks, put out fires, mine, manufacture products, and more.

Besides, one job in Buhari’s economy?

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