You are a Guest | Sign In Register as: Student Plus Student
Add to Scribble Pad

Social exclusion and poverty

Asked by Famous15 | Apr 14, 2008 | AS Level > Sociology > Coursework
Famous15 asks:

I just need some assistance getting started, with explaining the noticeable differences between the concepts of social exclusion and poverty.

I know there is 'absolute' (idea of subsistence, basic conditions that must be met in order to keep a healthy existence) and 'relative'(measured as a universal standard of deprivation) terms and these are two approaches favoured by sociologists. With regards to 'social exclusion' it describes a state of, processes & outcomes and covers a wide range of social economic problems.

Would I be on the right lines in trms of explaining the distinction between the two concepts?

etutor answers:

Certainly the distinction between absolute and relative poverty is relevant here.

Absolute Poverty: The number of households unable to afford basic goods and services, thus threatening their basic survival. For a long time there was no official household income ‘poverty line’ in the UK, though the official ‘breadline’ is now 60% of national median income – i.e. about £225 a week for a childless couple.
Relative Poverty: The number of households whose incomes are below some specified income threshold in a country – e.g below 60% of median household income, or else below two-thirds of a country’s average household income (the EU’s ‘Decency’ Level.). Relative poverty is thus a measure of income inequality in a country; the numbers in relative poverty obviously depend upon the measure adopted.

The principal causes of poverty (outlined below) will also relate to social exclusion.

1. Huge differences in earnings growth (hi-tech vs. traditional; private vs. public sector; skilled vs. unskilled; manufacturing vs. lower-paid services such as retailing and catering; unionised vs. non-unionised). Much of this reflects differences in education, qualifications, skills and opportunities. Fall in the relative pay of part-time workers (despite greater employment protection); reduction in trade union power.
2. Long-term unemployment; also rising economic inactivity arising out of men withdrawing from the labour market (‘discouraged worker effect’) and growing numbers declining to enter the labour market (those on incapacity benefit now number 2.65M).
3. Fall in relative incomes for those depending on benefits (including pensioners) – these are uprated each year in line with inflation rather than with increases in average earnings
4. The greater numbers dependent upon benefits – particularly lone parents, pensioners, those claiming Incapacity Benefit. 20% of households in the UK are workless.
5. Most tax changes since early 1980s have tended to favour those on higher incomes – including the gradual shift from direct to indirect taxation. The current debate over the abolition of the 10% tax band is relevant here too.

Social Exclusion refers to the fact that some groups in society have been marginalised, often as a result of government actions. From the outset the present Labour government preferred to talk about social exclusion instead of poverty' indeed, its policy emphasis was on social inclusion. The stress is therefore on the promotion of equality of opportunity, rather than the traditional stress on greater equality of OUTCOMES. This is primarily achieved through providing education, training and opportunities to WORK rather than through generous welfare payments through the benefits system.

A Social Exclusion Unit was set up in 1997. It symbolised the government's intention to address the problems faced by the moost disadvantaged in society, recognising that they are multi-faceted and reinforcing. As such, it could be said that the concept of social exclusion is more concerned with the analysis of the causes of poverty than with the definitional distinctions between absolute and relative poverty. There is a focus on indicators that contribute to social exclusion, including: long-term recipients of benefits, low birthweight babies, pupils leaving school with no qualifications, births to girls conceiving under 16, unemployment rates, suicide statistics, criminal records, long-standing illness or disability, alcohol and drug addiction, non-participation in civic organisations, vulnerability to crime, and housing overcrowding. This list is not exhaustive, but many who are socially excluded fall into several of these indicator categories. There is some overlap with the concept of the underclass. The argument is that those who are socially excluded are not only poor (on any definition) but als lack the means (and often the motivation) to escape from their poverty. Hence the socially excluded are dominated by workless households, benefits dependency, lone parents, the sick and disabled, and those witout educational attainment, skills and employment history.

I hope this is helpful.

1 student responses


Thankyou this response is of great help and will definitely aid me in providing a full response.

responded Apr 20, 2008 1:46:49 PM BST
Login or Register to post a response.

Student Profile

Last online Sun Mar 15 2009 9:8 AM GMT
Member since Apr 14, 2008
Profile type:
United Kingdom

Popular Tags

Sponsored Links