Social exclusion

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Socially rejected people
Socially isolated groups
Marginal groups
Contemporary mass society creates individuals and social groups who are left on the cultural and economic edges, and certainly out of the mainstream process of decision-making. This tendency toward homogeneity at the centre of things makes consensus much easier, because only a part of society is included in it. Minorities of any kind play a fixed role that does not disturb the central processes overly much. This marginalizing process erodes society at its base, because there is no common reference point for people.
"Complete" social exclusion is the final culmination of a series of specific exclusions from basic rights. Such rights include: the right to receive training; the right to have a job; the right to decent accommodation; the right to live as a couple and lead a responsible family life; the right to have access to social protection and care services; and the right to enjoy a reasonable standard of living. Victims of social exclusion, be they individuals or families, generally speaking descend into a state of social exclusion quite quickly. They cease to be regarded by society as persons who enjoy those rights and characteristics which are fundamental to human dignity, as expressed by social, economic and cultural integration and civic recognition. Victims of social exclusion are no longer able legitimately to exercise their basic rights in the normal way. They are effectively without rights and without a voice.

Not every victim of poverty is, however, bound to suffer marginalization or social exclusion. In the same way, whilst victims of poverty and social exclusion may take to crime and violence, it is not by any means all such victims who are involved in such extreme action. What is true, however, is that poverty, and social exclusion may give rise to legal measures, educational schemes and programmes to check these phenomena which are costly to society; there is also a need to highlight the cost of acts of violence to victims, perpetrators and their respective families.

Children cannot be held responsible for the acts of their parents; they should also not suffer as a result of those acts. In the same way, all victims of social exclusion cannot be classified as "poor". Some forms of social exclusion derive mainly from causes which are of a physical, psychological, social, ethnic, cultural, religious, political, etc. nature and other forms of social exclusion are linked to handicaps; such situations are not necessarily accompanied by financial deprivation (though this is frequently the case). Whilst it has been possible mathematically to establish the threshold for poverty, it is more difficult to establish the dividing line between "first degree poverty" and social exclusion. Only the most extreme form of social exclusion, namely homelessness, can be readily identified. It is, however, clear that if adequate or timely action is not taken to combat poverty, there is a risk that it may lead - sooner or later - to marginalization and social exclusion. The victims of marginalization and social exclusion are not properly covered by statistics. Most of the persons concerned do not enjoy conventional living conditions. A large proportion of them live in: hostels, social readjustment centres, temporary shelters, bed and breakfast accommodation, shanty towns, caravans, or, have no fixed address, sleeping in the open. The final stage in the process of social exclusion is moral collapse which may lead people to suicide, which represents the final cry for help which goes unanswered. Suicide is one of the major causes of death and it is on the increase, particularly amongst young people, the very lonely and the elderly.

Rapid population growth and the pace of urbanization are escalating land prices in settlements, squeezing the poor off land they have occupied, often for decades, and marginalizing them in urban housing markets.

Analysis of diverse cases -- including those of South Africa, Pakistan, and the Philippines -- shows that environmental scarcities expand marginal groups that need help from government by constraining rural economic development and by encouraging people to move into cities where they demand food, shelter, transport, energy, and jobs. In response, governments come under pressure to introduce subsidies of urban services which drain revenues and distort local markets.

There are consequences of a situation of permanent inequity over time: poor income distribution at the national and international levels gives rise to permanent situations of social exclusion. Exclusion is deeper and more definitive than poverty. Exclusion is the absence of participation, segregation, neglect and being forgotten. The existence of sectors that are excluded at the international and national levels leads to the development of some very particular feelings on the part of the sectors that are not excluded. The philosopher Julien Freund remarks that: "It would appear that exclusion is now part of normality in societies, and does not arouse any special moral or political conscience but instead evokes pity in the guise of the virtue of charity". The consequence of exclusion, as has been seen in the case of international cooperation, is this sentiment of pity. "It may be that the spread of many forms of exclusion, and pseudoexclusion, in society is a sign of the times".
Problem Type:
C: Cross-sectoral problems
Date of last update
17.02.2000 – 00:00 CET