Social exclusion

Social exclusion


Causes and forms of social exclusion: identity

As discussed earlier, social exclusion is often the effect of a process of discrimination or ‘othering’ on the basis of of cultural, social and/or racial identity. Such discrimination can generate powerful exclusionary processes. It can be systematic and intentional - resulting from policies which are embedded in the formal institutions of the state, as in the case of the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Discriminatory processes and practices can also be deeply embedded in the operation of labour markets. For example, Popay et al. (2008, see below) highlight the example of the majority indigenous Tuareg in North Niger, who represent only 1% of upper management personnel and 15% of workers and employees in the uranium mining industry which has polluted their traditional lands and compromised their livelihoods. Discriminatory processes may also be reinforced by religion, tradition and cultural practices – as exemplified by India’s caste system - and embedded in dominant social attitudes, behaviours and prejudicial practices.

Kabeer, N., 2002, ‘Citizenship and the Boundaries of the Acknowledged Community: Identity, Affiliation and Exclusion’, Institute of Development Studies Working Paper no. 171, Brighton
The history of citizenship has been an unhappy one. The denial of resources and the rights of some groups by others is typical, and no historically significant form of citizenship has been incompatible with this type of exclusion. This Institute of Development Studies (IDS) paper looks at two different forms of citizenship: the ‘imagined community’ of the nation-state with its rights and duties, and other communities within the nation-state with their own claims and obligations. It considers how these forms of citizenship shape the patterns of access to and exclusion from resources.
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Das, N. K. 2009, ‘Identity Politics and Social Exclusion in India’s North-East: The Case for Redistributive Justice’, Bangladesh e-Journal of Sociology, Volume 6, Number 1
This paper, published by the Bangladesh e-Journal of Sociology, analyses how identity politics have served to marginalise and exclude different groups in North-East India. These exclusions often assume a binary form, with oppositions including majority-minority, 'sons of the soil'-immigrants, locals-outsiders, tribal-non-tribal, hills-plains, inter-tribal and intra-tribal. Local people's anxiety for autonomy and the preservation of their language and culture should be viewed as a prerequisite for distributive justice, rather than dysfunctional to a healthy civil society.
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GSDRC, 2009, 'Identity Politics in Nepal', Helpdesk Research Report, GSDRC, Birmingham
The increasing prominence of identity politics and ethnic demands in recent years can be attirbuted to, among other things, the cumulative effect of years of work by ethnic activists since 1990, the Maoist insurgency, which began in 1996, and democratic reforms since 2006. Most mainstream ethnic and dalit movements have been peaceful. There has, however, been a tendency in recent years for activists to urge the taking up of arms against the state if demands are unmet. In order to prevent further violence, much of the literature stresses that the centre acknowledge and respond to all identity movements and legalise ethnic parties.
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Few studies provide careful examination of the role of a person’s race in accounting for social exclusion, poverty, and inequality. This is partly because the subject remains almost taboo in many countries and as a result, the data that could support such analyses is often lacking. However, some studies, on exclusion in Latin America for example, have shown that certain racial groups experience considerable disadvantages in terms of access to schooling, formal sector jobs, equal remuneration, etc. Their lower labour market earnings result in disproportionately high poverty levels.

Wade. P., 2005, ‘Rethinking Mestizaje : Ideology and Lived Experience’ Journal of Latin American Studies, Volume 37
How do people live the process of racial-cultural mixture? By adopting an approach that focuses on the everyday, this paper emphasises the ways in which mestizaje (mixture) as a lived process involves the maintenance of enduring spaces for racial-cultural difference alongside spaces of sameness and homogeneity. In so doing, it highlights the way in which notions of inclusion and exclusion in processes of mixture are intertwined and challenge essentialist notions of identity.
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White, S., 2002, ‘Thinking Race, Thinking Development’, Third World Quarterly, Volume 23, Number 3
Talking about race in development is like breaking a taboo: Development is determinedly colour blind. This article from Third World Quarterly challenges the dominant stance on development. It argues that the silence on race masks and marks its centrality to the development project. The politics of race in development deserves consideration. Race is a socio-historical construct which operates both as an aspect of identity and as an organising principle of social structure. Development is increasingly identified as a project of Western capitalism. It cannot be separated from the wider context of western-inspired global capitalism and the geopolitical interests of dominant states.
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Hooker, J., 2005, ‘Indigenous Inclusion/ Black Exclusion: Race, Ethnicity and Multicultural Citizenship in Latin America’, Journal of Latin American Studies, Volume 37, Number 2, pp. 285-310
Why is the landscape of citizenship so uneven across Latin America? Latin America exhibits high degrees of racial inequality and discrimination against Afro-Latinos and indigenous populations, despite constitutional and statutory measures prohibiting racial discrimination. The multicultural reforms of the 1980s and 1990s which brought many collective rights to indigenous groups have not, however, had the same impact on Afro-Latinos. This article from the Journal of Latin American Studies examines the region's multicultural citizenship regimes, and finds an emphasis on cultural difference or ethnic identity over race which disadvantages Afro-Latinos.
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Ethnicity and culture

As with the section above, the literature on ethnicity and exclusion notes that ethnic differences can result in reduced access to and accumulation of assets and goods, and that exclusion can affect the return on those assets in the labour market. This can have important implications for poverty and well-being. Ethnic (as well as racial) exclusion can result from discriminatory institutional rules, as well as social attitudes and practices. This discrimination is particularly problematic when it occurs in public sector organisations, which are responsible for public service provisioning. Creating genuine structures of social inclusion in such contexts is particularly challenging.

Mustafa, A. R., 2005, ‘Ethnic Structure, Inequality and Governance of the Public Sector in Nigeria’, Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE), Oxford
How has ethnic mobilisation and confrontation manifested itself in multi-ethnic Nigeria? What efforts have been made to address it? This paper from the Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity explores Nigeria’s contradictory processes of ethno-regional fragmentation and a centralising nation-building agenda. Ethnic mobilisation remains resilient in the face of repeated efforts at political engineering and nation-building.
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Cultural status inequalities arise when certain groups’ cultural norms, practices and symbols are given differential treatment or recognition. In the following paper, the three main aspects of cultural inequality are defined as: i) recognition of religious practices and observances; ii) language rights and language recognition; and iii) recognition of ethnocultural practices. Cultural status inequalities are particularly prone to group mobilisation and violence because of their inherent link with group identity.

Langer, A. and Brown, G., 2007, 'Cultural Status Inequalities: An Important Dimension of Group Mobilization', CRISE Working Paper no. 41, Centre for Research on Inequality Human Security and Ethnicity, Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford
What is the relationship between cultural status and group mobilisation? This working paper from the Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE) analyses this relationship within the broader framework of horizontal inequalities – that is inequalities between culturally defined groups. Group grievances and violent conflict can emerge out of the inferior treatment or status afforded to different groups’ cultural practices by the state. The most dangerous situations exist where all three dimensions of horizontal inequality – socioeconomic, political and cultural – run in the same direction.
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Laaksonen, A., 2005, ‘Measuring Cultural Exclusion through Participation in Cultural Life’, Third Global Forum on Human Development: Defining and Measuring Cultural Exclusion, January 17-19, Paris
What indicators should be used to measure individuals’ access to cultural rights? How can a strengthening of cultural life contribute to social inclusion and participation? This paper from the Interarts Foundation looks at three geographically diverse consultations on cultural inclusion to identify the key cultural rights priorities for communities worldwide. It argues that an enabling cultural environment promotes individuals’ access to their rights and a sense of social responsibility.
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However, development practitioners must be careful about how they judge other cultures. On an organisational and individual level, developers need to examine and challenge their own cultural assumptions and power dynamics. Their role must be to make space for discussion of cultures by ‘insiders’, and to ensure the participation of excluded groups - enabling them to identify and take action against practices they find oppressive.

Jolly, S., 2002, ‘Gender and Cultural Change: Overview Report’, BRIDGE, Institute of Development Studies, Brighton
Is Gender and Development (GAD) an imposition of western ideas on other cultures? This accusation can obstruct efforts to tackle gender inequality. Yet ideas in development are disproportionately influenced by richer countries. In this paper from BRIDGE, this problem is addressed by looking at culture and where cultural norms come from. Awareness of power dynamics and willingness to tackle gender stereotypes can be effective in challenging cultural norms.
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Religion-related exclusion can come in two forms. The first is the denial of the right to practise one’s religion freely or at least equally. The second is the exclusion of people from the wider legal, economic and political rights available more generally on the grounds of their religion or religious identity. An additional important dimension is the exclusion by a religious group of its own members from certain religious practices. In India, the practice of untouchability which excludes dalits from Hindu temples is highlighted by the paper below as an example of this. 

Bhargava, R., 2004, ‘Inclusion and Exclusion in South Asia: The Role of Religion’, UNDP
What forms of exclusion related to religion occur in South Asia and how can these be addressed? This paper from the United Nations Development Programme examines the role of religion in inclusion and exclusion in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. A South Asian society with a secular state such as India is most likely to be inclusive or to have potential for inclusion. Conversely, a society without a secular state such as Pakistan or Bangladesh has much greater potential for exclusion.
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Discrimination against women is widespread and systemic, and they are subject to exclusion in various spheres. Women continue to face barriers to their political participation, and are vastly under-represented in local and national governing bodies worldwide. There are also gender differences in terms of inclusion in the labour market. Most women are concentrated in the informal economy, which is characterised by job insecurity, poor working conditions and low pay. The persistence and reproduction of women’s exclusion is also supported by social norms and religious values.  In many communities, traditional barriers still prevent women from going out of their homes to work. For some women, having primary or sole responsibility for household duties, including childcare, also prevents them from working outside their homes or areas of residence.

Social exclusion has some powerful advantages for gender analysis: it is dynamic and process-oriented; it enables a focus on the excluded and included as well as the excluders and includers , and it allows for the kind of multilayered analysis that is needed for a better understanding of gender and other complex social relations.

However, the literature on gender is huge and cannot be covered in any great depth in this guide. Thus, the resources included below aim to highlight some important aspects of the links between gender and social exclusion.

Costa,J., Silva, E. and Vaz, F., 2009, ‘The Role of Gender Inequalities in Explaining Income Growth, Poverty and Inequality: Evidences from Latin American Countries’, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth, United Nations Development Programme
What role can gender play in understanding income growth, poverty and inequality? This working paper, published by the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth, argues that gender equality is critical in any attempt to reduce poverty. In particular, it finds that increasing women’s access to the labour market correlates very positively with greater economic equality overall. The analysis draws on microsimulations performed for eight Latin American countries, covering four areas of gender inequality: labour market participation, occupational status, wage discrimination and characteristic endowments.
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Morrisson, C. and Jutting, J. P., 2005, ‘Women’s Discrimination in Developing Countries: A New Dataset for Better Policies’, World Development, Volume 33, Issue 7, pp. 1065-1081
How do gender inequalities in developing countries affect women’s economic activity? This paper from the journal World Development introduces innovative indicators to measure constraints imposed on women by social institutions: laws, norms, traditions and codes of conduct. These are the most important factors in determining women’s participation in economic activities outside the household. Measures to improve women’s access to education and health will have limited impact while social institutions continue to discriminate against women.
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Plantegna, D., 2004, ‘Gender, Identity, and Diversity: Learning from Insights Gained in Transformative Gender Training’ Gender and Development, Volume 12, Number 1
Why prioritise gender inequality over other forms of oppression, such as those based on class, ethnicity and religion? This article from Gender and Development draws on insights from gender training sessions to examine gender, identity and power in development organisations. It recognises that identities are always multiple and interconnected, so gender cannot be viewed in isolation. Power dynamics between different identities give privileges to some and make others vulnerable. Gender training should acknowledge these differences and find strategies to promote equality.
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Cornwall, A. and Jolly, S., ‘Introduction: Sexuality Matters’, IDS Bulletin, Volume 37, Number 5
What is the connection between sexuality and development? This introduction to an issue of the Bulletin published by the Institute of Development Studies, addresses the role of sexuality in development. The mainstream literature has largely ignored this subject, either reducing it to a health and reproduction issue, or dismissing it as a “luxury”. In fact, sexuality is a matter of major concern to people worldwide, and development policies are already making an impact on sexuality, intended or not. Sexuality is an issue that cuts across various domains and is linked to human well-being. Silences, taboos and societal expectations around sex often reinforce or build up negative gender stereotypes and affect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
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GSDRC, 2009, 'Gender and Elections in Afghanistan', Helpdesk Research Report, GSDRC, Birmingham
Press coverage around the recent presidential elections in Afghanistan emphasised the low turnout of women voters, highlighting the shortage of female staff at polling stations, proxy voting by male family members, and the threat of retributive violence against women voters and candidates as key factors. However, the academic literature is largely silent on these issues, both in the Afghanistan context and more generally. According to one author, relatively little is known about the actual dynamics of women’s access to the polls and their opportunities to stand as candidates. Most studies of women’s political participation focus on the problem of low levels of female representation in government. This stream of research considers the structural and cultural conditions that make it difficult for women to be nominated as candidates and to win political office, as well as the behaviour of female parliamentarians once in government.
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Razani, S., and Jenichen, A., 2010, ‘The Unhappy Marriage of Religion and Politics: problems and pitfalls for gender equality’, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 6, pp. 833-850.
Has the growing presence of religion in politics made it harder for women to pursue gender equity? This article explores how religion as a political force shapes the struggle for gender equality in developing and developed countries. It is based on studies in Chile, India, Iran, Israel, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Serbia, Turkey and the United States. The political influence of religious actors and movements worldwide has increased post-Cold War. The 'private sphere' has become politicised and is often the focus for conflict between religious actors and human rights advocates.
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OECD, 2010, ‘Atlas of Gender and Development: How Social Norms Affect Gender Equality in non-OECD Countries’, Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris
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For further information on gender and social exclusion, see the human rights, gender and social exclusion sections of the GSDRC Justice guide.

For further information on gender and discrimination, see the GSDRC Human Rights guide.

Youth and children

Youth per se does not constitute a dimension of social exclusion. Everyone goes through youth, and most people make the ‘normal’ transition to adulthood. However, in many countries young people are increasingly unable to achieve the social and economic statuses required for adulthood. This trend has been termed ‘the blocked transition to adulthood’, and is also known as the ‘waithood’ in the Middle East and ‘youthmen’ in Rwanda. Youth exclusion is particularly widespread in countries with rigid and conservative power structures, which exclude them and other marginalised groups in society. For example, young people in the Middle East often see their governments as unelected, unaccountable, corrupt and providing no legitimate outlet for youth discontent. Therefore, it is the intersection of youth with other dimensions of disadvantage that makes social exclusion a useful framework for analysis.

Kabbani, N. and Kamel, N., 2007, ‘Youth Exclusion in Syria: Social, Economic and Institutional Dimensions’, Middle East Youth Initiative, Washington DC / Dubai
What factors contribute to the economic exclusion of young Syrians, and how do these factors interact? This paper from the Middle East Youth Initiative examines economic, social and institutional dimensions of youth exclusion in Syria. Findings suggest that a combination of factors contributes to economic exclusion, with multiple risk factors having a cumulative impact towards youth exclusion.
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UNICEF, 2006, ‘Excluded and Invisible: The State of the World's Children 2006’, United Nations Children's Fund, New York
How can children be included in the millennium agenda? Meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the broader aims of the Millennium Declaration would transform the lives of millions of children: saving them from illness, premature death, extreme poverty and malnutrition and helping them gain access to safe water and decent sanitation facilities, and primary schooling. However, with the MDGs focused on national averages, children in marginalized communities risk missing out on essential services such as health care, education and protection. This UNICEF paper discusses the root causes of the exclusion and invisibility of some children, and how the MDGs can be met so that they are included and protected.
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Thorat, S. and Sadana, N., 2009, ‘Discrimination and Children’s Nutritional Status in India’, IDS Bulletin, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp. 25-29
What is the connection between caste and health status in India? This paper, published by the Institute of Development Studies Bulletin, argues that discrimination and exclusion associated with “untouchability” may play a role in the poor health of lower caste individuals. Particularly in the nutrition domain, lower caste children have significantly lower indicators of health and well-being. Proactively inclusive measures are needed to reverse current trends, beginning with antipoverty and education programmes. Equally necessary is a major campaign to raise awareness among rural people, including the scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribes (ST), encouraging them to access healthcare services.
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Old age

As with youth, the intersection of old age with gender, ethnicity, and disability, for example, can result in discrimination against, and the marginalisation of, older women and men. They can face multi-dimensional disadvantages including lack of assets, isolation and physical infirmity. These are closely related to the processes and institutional arrangements that exclude them from full participation in the economic, social and political life of their communities. These include the discriminatory laws and practices of governments as well as the negative attitudes and discriminatory practices of family members, healthcare providers, employers, etc.  Age-based prejudice isolates older people from consultation and decision-making processes at family, community and national levels, and can lead to the denial of services and support on the grounds of age.

Beales, S., 2000, ‘The Mark of a Noble Society: Human Rights and Older People’, HelpAge International, London
Older women and men are now the world's fastest-growing population group, and among the poorest. What barriers do older people face in having their predicaments acknowledged and their contributions supported? How can their rights be promoted and protected? There is a compelling economic as well as moral logic for including older people in global strategies to combat poverty to further human rights. This paper by HelpAge International explores the relationship between poverty and human rights, and the barriers older people face.
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Disabled people often have limited access to education, employment, and public services. Some of the barriers to their inclusion are physical, such as inaccessible buildings and transport; institutional, such as discriminatory legislation; and attitudinal, for example stigma.  Disability has been something of a zone of invisibility, and persons with disabilities are not included in any of the MDG’s Goals, Targets or Indicators, yet an estimated one billion people worldwide live with varying degrees of disability.

UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2011, ‘Disability and the Millennium Development Goals: A Review of the MDG Process and Strategies for Inclusion of Disability Issues in Millennium Development Goal Efforts’, UN, New York
This publication provides a “road map” for how and why disability can and should be included in the planning, monitoring and evaluation of MDG-related programmes and policies.
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World Health Organisation and the World Bank, 2011, 'World Report on Disability: Summary', WHO, Geneva
This report finds that more than a billion people, about 15 per cent of the world's population, are estimated to live with some form of disability. It synthesises the evidence on how to address the barriers they face in health, rehabilitation, support and assistance, environments, education and employment. It argues that many of the barriers are avoidable, and that the disadvantages associated with disability can be overcome. Multiple, systemic interventions are needed.
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Yeo, R., 2002, ‘Chronic Poverty and Disability’, Chronic Poverty Research Centre, Manchester
Disabled people make up approximately 10 per cent of any population and more of those living in chronic poverty. The international development targets are unlikely to be met without including disabled people. There is, however, a risk the targets could cause a focus on those easiest to bring out of poverty, not those in chronic poverty. While there has been a shift towards considering disability rights in rhetoric, in many places there has been little concrete action. Existing research uses different definitions of disability and impairment, and definitions are complicated by cultural variations on what impairments cause marginalisation. Disabled people exert little influence on policy makers, are hard for researchers to reach and research methods can also exclude them. Existing anecdotal evidence, however, points to a disproportionate number of disabled people in all countries amongst those in extreme or chronic poverty.
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Trani, J. and Loeb, M., 2010, ‘Poverty and Disability: A Vicious Circle? Evidence From Afghanistan and Zambia’, Journal of International Development, Published Online 18th June 2010
This paper finds evidence of lower access to health care, education and the labour market among people with disabilities, but that poverty measured by an asset index is not statistically different between people with and without disabilities.
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AusAID, 2009, ‘Companion volume: Development for All Towards a Disability-Inclusive Australian Aid Program 2009–2014. Supporting Analysis’, Australian Agency for International Development, Canberra
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Social exclusion can increase the risk factors leading to HIV infection, making the disease much harder to prevent. The stigma associated with the infection also means that in many countries people living with HIV and AIDS are likely to be socially excluded. Some groups will find their exclusion compounded by contracting the virus and being blamed for their condition, for example gay men, young women and widows. This can make HIV and AIDS more difficult to treat.

Operario, D., 2008, ‘Chapter 2: The Epidemic Through Voices – Impact and Vulnerability’, in UNDP, ‘Living with HIV in Eastern Europe and CIS: The Human Cost of Social Exclusion’, United Nations Development Programme
How does the HIV epidemic impact on human development? What are the specific challenges amongst vulnerable populations? Written for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), this paper examines the impacts of HIV in Eastern Europe and CIS countries. A human development perspective is called for, providing a comprehensive approach to match the complex challenges of HIV.
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