Social exclusion

I am working on a project proposal on e-inclusion which aims at developing an ICT solution for adult migrants as groups at risk of social exlusion.

I am having a look at what  social exclusion actually means. Especially I am looking for different indicators and different reasons of social exclusion. The more I dig into it, the more complex it becomes.

So I enjoy finding passages like these:

“Neither the problems nor the remedies (of social exclusion) are simple. Once the focus moves beyond income to exclusion, complexity enters in the form of wider goals, a correspondingly broader range of interventions, overlapping jurisdictions, and scientific uncertainty regarding causes, effects, and mediating variables” (…) Serious analysts have expressed concern about the lack of focus and the fact that policy and political ambition run far ahead of research and coherent planning (Link)


Broadly interpreted, ‘social exclusion’ implies the ‘inability of an individual to participate in the basic political, economic and social functionings of the society in which he or she lives’. In practice, it has been given several interpretations by social scientists and policy-makers alike such as ‘exclusion from the labour market’, ‘acute poverty and material deprivation’, ‘inability to exercise basic social rights’  and, until now, there does not seem to be a general consensus about its proper operationalisation. As Atkinson (1998) points out, at least part of the concept’s popularity, especially among policy-makers, should be attributed to its vagueness.” (Link)

An impression of the complexity of social exclusion is provided by UK poverty & social exclusion indicators website.

But what is the difference between poverty and social exclusion? This helped my understanding:

“Unlike poverty, social exclusion is better defined in the space of capabilities rather than the space of commodities (or income) and can be viewed both as a state and as a process leading to deprivation.”(Link)

There seems to be a consensus that social exclusion is a multidimensional concept and that a number of factors need to be aggregated to describe a cummulative disadvantage  or the level of risk of social exclusion. Most common indicators of social exclusion of adults being:

  • monetary income
  • labour market status
  • social benefits
  • access to education /training
  • living conditions
  • social relations
  • health

I think it is useful to consider social exclusion not only as a mutlidimensional but also as a gradual concept. If there are  examples of extreme social exclusion, such as poverty and homelessness, there are also exaples on the other end. I wonder if there is a model that describes these different grades of social exclusion as a continuum?


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