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Is Social Exclusion Simply Poverty By Another Name?

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Introduction

Is Social Exclusion Simply Poverty By Another Name? . 'Social exclusion is a term that has gatecrashed the debate about the direction of social policy without paying the entrance fee of a definition. As a result, there is confusion about its exact meaning.' (Robin Wilson, 1995) To respond to the notion that social exclusion and poverty may be the same concept but with a different handle it is first necessary to define both of these terms. Although both widely known and used, there are many differences in the way the terms are used to categorise people and much debate about the 'true' meanings of the terms. The concept of poverty has always been contested, with many politicians, theorists, social policists and sociologists debating what the true definition of the term is. In this essay I will examine different opinions on what exactly constitutes poverty with a view to gaining a better understanding of the causes and effects of poverty. In recent years the concept of social exclusion has been at the forefront of government policy making in Britain. It was a concept first widely recognised in Europe, and was adopted by Britain in 1997 when Tony Blair's labour government set up the Social Exclusion Unit (S.E.U.). ...read more.

Middle

argues that the concept of the underclass 'presents a dichotomous division between insiders and outsiders, and thereby presents an overly homogeneous picture of mainstream society' and as the Rowntree poverty study (2000) comments: 'Even if full employment were achieved, poverty and exclusion would not disappear. Earnings can be too low unless there are minimally adequate child benefit and other allowances to complement them and unless minimally adequate benefits are available for all pensioners and all disabled people. People who cannot work require adequate incomes to meet their needs. High quality, affordable services in every part of the country will also be needed if poverty and social exclusion are to be eliminated.' Its focus on the paid labour market also serves to obscure the unpaid domestic labour (mainly of women) and therefore has the implication of an increase in women's workload. To put this in the simple terms of Ruth Levitas (1998) 'In RED they have no money, in SID they have no work and in MUD they have no morals.' In Tony Blair's belief social exclusion is a 'very modern problem, and one that is more harmful to the individual, more damaging to self esteem, more corrosive for society as a whole, more likely to be passed down from generation to generation than material poverty' Blair (1997). ...read more.

Conclusion

In a way they are right, it is a concept from the past. At the same time, it would be deceptive to view it as an old problem with a new fa´┐Żade. Changes in social and economic life cannot be underestimated in contemporary society and the term 'social exclusion' serves to emphasize the lack of effectiveness in using old responses to deal with a variety of new problems. Changes in the structure of society have brought different forms of poverties and inequalities requiring innovative solutions. It can be possible then to experience poverty without social exclusion for a brief space of time, for instance a well paid person recently made redundant may have very little or no income, making them statistically poor while still enjoying inclusion in society. It can also be seen that a person can experience social exclusion while not statistically poor, for example, the person who has recently acquired well paid employment may still the carry burden of debt, poor housing, material impoverishment and it can take many months or years to gain full inclusion into society. A wife of a well-paid husband may still be in poverty and/or socially excluded due to the assumptions that income is equally distributed within a household and that she is free to participate fully in society. ...read more.

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