Social exclusion

Social exclusion


Causes and forms of social exclusion: rights, citizenship and economic exclusion

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Introducing causes and forms of exclusion

Exclusionary processes can have various dimensions:

  • Political exclusion can include the denial of citizenship rights such as political participation and the right to organise, and also of personal security, the rule of law, freedom of expression and equality of opportunity. Bhalla and Lapeyre (1997: 420)  argue that political exclusion also involves the notion that the state, which grants basic rights and civil liberties, is not a neutral agency but a vehicle of a society's dominant classes, and may thus discriminate between social groups. (See: Bhalla, A. and Lapeyre, F., 1997, ‘Social Exclusion: Towards an Analytical and Operational Framework’, Development and Change, vol. 28, no. 3, pp. 413-433)
  • Economic exclusion includes lack of access to labour markets, credit and other forms of ‘capital assets’. 
  • Social exclusion may take the form of discrimination along a number of dimensions including gender, ethnicity and age, which reduce the opportunity for such groups to gain access to social services and limits their participation in the labour market.
  • Cultural exclusion refers to the extent to which diverse values, norms and ways of living are accepted and respected.

These relationships are interconnected and overlapping, and given the complexity of influences on individuals, it is impossible to identify a single specific cause in the context of social exclusion. People may be excluded because of deliberate action on the part of others (e.g. discrimination by employers); as a result of processes in society which do not involve deliberate action; or even by choice. However, more generally, the causes of social exclusion that lead to poverty, suffering and sometimes death, can be attributed to the operations of unequal power relations.

Tilly, C., 2007, ‘Poverty and the Politics of Exclusion’, in Narayan, D. and Petesch, P. (eds.), ‘Moving out of Poverty’, World Bank Publications, Washington DC
How does politics affect individual and collective exits from poverty? This chapter examines the politics of exclusion and the political production or reproduction of poverty. It focuses on causal links among four elements: social exclusion, poverty, exits from poverty and overall processes that generate inequality among social categories. Social exclusion lies at the heart of inequality-generating processes. Exclusion itself promotes poverty, and exits from poverty therefore depend on eliminating or bypassing the usual effects of social exclusion. Political programmes to address political interests are required.
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Mosse, D., 2007, ‘Power and the Durability of Poverty: A Critical Exploration of the Links between Culture, Marginality and Chronic Poverty’, Chronic Poverty Research Centre, London
What are the causes of chronic poverty and through what social mechanisms does it persist? How does a weak group become a constituency and a political agenda? This paper draws on case studies from western India. Research on poverty has to be reconnected to knowledge about the way in which socio-economic, political and cultural systems work. Chronic poverty develops in the midst of capitalist growth and is perpetuated by ordinary relations of exploitation and opportunity hoarding. To address it, multi-level and long-term strategies are needed.
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Social exclusion can also result from the persistence of poverty

Stewart, F. And Langer, A., 2007, ‘Horizontal Inequalities: Explaining Persistence and Change’ Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity, London
Why do Horizontal Inequalities (HIs) persist in some cases and narrow in others? This paper explores case studies of HIs over time in different countries. It presents a framework in which complementarities between the productivity and accumulation of different types of capital tend to lead to self-perpetuating cycles of success and failure. Persistence of HIs is not inevitable, but interventions are generally needed in relation to both human capital accumulation and economic disadvantage if groups are to catch up.
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Exclusion, rights and citizenship

There are clear links between the concept of social exclusion and a rights-based approach to development. Social exclusion analysis can help to identify which groups are being denied access to their rights, and which actors or organisations are blocking their access.  A social exclusion analysis is useful even when rights are not on the agenda, because it can help focus attention on those within society who are denied access to resources, institutions or decision-making processes. Social exclusion therefore also links to development agendas focusing on citizenship, participation, democratisation and accountability.

Social exclusion addresses the political nature of deprivation, in that it examines the links between people’s lack of citizenship status and their levels of poverty. Citizenship is centred on the capability of exercising individual and collective rights, and inequalities in this capability can generate a social hierarchy, made up of first- and second-class citizens. This often means that not all individuals are equal before the law, and that they do not all have the same access to public goods supplied by the state. Political aspects of exclusion can include the lack of political rights, such as political participation and the right to organise; alienation from or lack of confidence in political processes; and lack of freedom of expression and equality of opportunity.

The following paper includes a discussion on social exclusion as ‘incomplete citizenship’:

Gore, C., 1995, ‘Markets, Citizenship and Social Exclusion’, in Rodgers, G., Gore, C. and Figueiredo, J., ‘Social Exclusion, Rhetoric, Reality, Responses’, A contribution to the World Summit for Social Development, International Institute for Labour Studies, Geneva
What are the advantages of adopting a social exclusion approach to issues of citizenship rights? Section II.2 of this chapter, published by the International Labour Organisation, argues that the condition of citizenship must be a clear part of development policy analysis. Citizenship rights appear to be severely limited in many low-income countries, with civil and political rights often as reduced as social rights. Human rights conditionality prods governments to provide certain rights to their citizens, but macro-economic conditionality undermines countries’ actual capacity to do so.
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The paper below argues that there are certain core values that people associate with the idea of citizenship. These include social justice, self-determination and a sense of horizontal solidarity with others.

Kabeer, N., 2005, ‘The Search for Inclusive Citizenship: Meanings and Expressions in an Interconnected World’, in Kabeer, N. (ed.), ‘Inclusive Citizenship’, Zed Books
What does ‘citizenship’ mean for excluded groups around the world? What do these meanings tell us about the goal of building inclusive societies? This chapter outlines some of the values and meanings associated with citizenship. It considers how debates around citizenship, rights and duties can be interpreted in the light of these values, and discusses the emergence of an explicit rights-based approach in the development agenda.
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Gibney, M., 2008, ‘Who Should be Included? Noncitizens, Conflict and the Constitution of the Citizenry’, in Stewart, F., (ed.), ‘Horizontal Inequalities and Conflict: Understanding Group Violence in Multiethnic Societies’, Palgrave Macmillan, London
What can the consideration of citizenship issues contribute to debates on political institutions in divided societies? What does it mean to distribute citizenship fairly? This chapter considers the question of access to citizenship and associated rights for noncitizens. A growing literature has been concerned with the tyranny of ethnic majorities in democratic political systems, but a ‘tyranny of the citizens’ should also be considered. Residents of a society who are stateless or ‘informal members’ should have genuine opportunities to gain citizenship.
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For further information on social exclusion and justice, see the human rights, gender and social exclusion sections of the GSDRC Justice guide

Economic exclusion

The distribution of resources and the accumulation of wealth is an unequal process, which is based on power relations, the capacity of various groups to lobby for their interests and influence the government’s agenda, and the targeting of government policies. Economic exclusion also refers to the exclusion of workers (either totally or partially) from three basic markets: labour, credit, and insurance. Applying the social exclusion approach to labour markets highlights the real and growing differences between the employed and the unemployed, between open and underground economies, and between the formal and informal sectors.

Whilst this exclusion plays an important role in the reproduction of inequality, it is also itself the result of inequalities, in access to resources, employment, education, and public services. Educational status and particularly illiteracy, can be an important cause of exclusion from the labour market.

Justino, P. and Litchfield, J., 2005, ‘Economic Exclusion and Discrimination: The Experience of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples’, Minority Rights Group International
What are the links between discrimination against ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples and their exclusion from economic life? This paper surveys the various forms of discrimination faced by minority and indigenous populations and analyses the causes of the economic exclusion they experience. It argues that discrimination is a central obstacle to development among these groups and, as such, should be a key concern in policy-making.
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Exclusion from the labour market can also result from outright discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, religion, gender, age, or social class.

Thorat, S., Attewell, P. and Rizvi, F. F., 2009, ‘Urban Labour Market Discrimination’, Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, New Delhi
Do caste and religion influence a graduate’s employment opportunities in India’s private sector? This paper examines the prevalence of discrimination in the job application processes of modern private sector enterprises. It finds that discriminatory processes operate even at the first stage of the application process. Caste favouritism and social exclusion still exist in the labour market in today’s urban India.
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Scott, Z., 2009, 'Gender and Growth in China', Helpdesk Research Report, GSDRC, Birmimgham
The first half of this report provides case studies examining the links between economic growth and gender equality in China. Most resources focus on the economic reforms associated with WTO accession and examine their gendered impacts. They all find that China’s impressive economic growth has failed to benefit men and women proportionately. Several authors argue that growth has actually increased inequality, or has created new gender inequalities. Women now generally occupy lower paid and lower status jobs than men. The second half of the report highlights resources on growth and gender in other countries, predominantly in Sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on the impact of gender inequality on growth. The resources on Africa offer more of a consensus in arguing that gender inequality has a negative effect on growth. The following are identified as particular barriers to African women fully participating in economic activity: high fertility rates, gender gaps in education, lack of access to formal employment, gender gaps in access to assets and inputs in agriculture.
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