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The Manifestation of Social Exclusion

Published on January 15, 2011 by: in: Society

Helping the excluded may sometimes lead to intensification of their passivity. Social benefits alone, without proper comprehensive programmes enabling these people to leave the margin group, do not bring expected long-term effects.

World economic recession deprived the indigent of chances to make use of consumer goods and services up to the expected standards. They were also divested of the ability to make decisions concerning their daily lives. The threat that is brought about by the impoverishment of people has contributed to the rise of decision-makers’ awareness, and what follows – to the increased interest in research concerning looking into new ways of counteracting and preventing this phenomenon. At the same time, the shortage of easy solutions caused discouragemnt of a number of decison-makers. Many times they gave preference to taking a short cut, which is often the reason for reinforcement of the problem.

How to define social exclusion?

Social exclusion is frequently identified with poverty, deprivation of needs and pauperization. However, between those phenomena an equal sign cannot be put although they overlap to a large extent, especially on the economic level. It does not take much effort  to notice that poor people do not have to be excluded, and the other way round – the excluded are not always deprived of suitable financial resources to fulfill their needs. Their exclusion often has not got the economic character. Still, co-occurence of these phenomena is significant, which expresses itself in a strong feedback mechanism.

The easiest solution will be to treat social exclusion as a set of elements of daily existence connected with economic and social situation in which people are not able to satisfy their needs, and consequently thei participation in professional life, cultural or educational events, health service as well as in various forms of entertainment is seriously restricted. Their exclusion substantially hinders, or even make it impossible for an individual to perform their social role according to the law, taking advantage of public goods and social infrastructure, gathering property or obtaining income. The Act of Social Employment of 13 June 2003 assumes that social exclusion is a situation in life when households are not able to satisfy their needs, which leads to their poverty and consequently to their deprivation of the possibility to participate in everyday life.

As the moment of exclusion, one can assume the situation when the person accepts help, which is equivalent with approbation of one’s degradation. In this sense an individual becomes poor not when they experience shortage, but when they obtain support. However, such line of reasoning might be misleading, because reordering of cause and effect occurs there. It seems from such thinking that first appears help and only later – poverty. Modifying this approach it can be added that a poor person becomes actually poor when they accept help as the only solution of their situation and, at the same time, they cannot imagine any other way of catering for their needs. Extending this argument, one may maintain that you become an excluded person when you also lack abilities and possibilities to apply for any assistance.

The marginalization factors

There are a number of factors characterising social exclusion. As the most important ones one often assumes unability to work, and as a consequence – unemployment, residing in apartments below certain standard, income not exceeding subsistence level (allowing for existence), insufficient education and lack of suitable qualifications for which there is a market demand, inheriting social position, diseases, low social activity, economic passiveness, conservatism, family pathologies. All the elements mentioned above may occur simultaneously, which additionally magnifies severe circumstances. Yet, occurence of these phenomena does not always have to lead to exclusion. The presence of a few of these factors, however, usually results in social exclusion.

It is often acknowledged that the main factor of social exclusion is financial hardship which leads to further deprivation of material and non-materialistic needs. In most cases those problems are the effect of losing a job, which triggers other unfavourable social and economic phenomena. The exclusion from the work market means for less affluent households a significant reduction in the chances of returning to professional activity and securing substantial income. The marginalization on the work market makes it necessary to make a living from non-profit work sources, enhances employment on badly-paid positions, taking up seasonal, part-time  as well as odd jobs, or even working illegaly. At the same time, it contributes to losing skills and brings about the impossibility to develop professionally. Moreover, it enfeebles the integrity-oriented relationships. Consequently, contacts perish, which means that the return to work becomes less possible for these people. The durability of the unemployment status is usually linked with low level of education and the lack of professional qualifications. Then, institutions providing support should aim at achieving new skills and competences crucial from the perspective of the local work market. In the effect, such actions would increase the quality of the human capital.

A considerable factor determining the progress of marginalization of some social groups is inadequate education. The problem of education may be included into basic issues of public life, which results from the contact of almost every social group with this type of services and their direct impact on developmental capacity of a given area.

Business entities report the demand for adequately educated population, people possessing definite skills and experience. Therefore, local authorities, pursuing social inclusion, should set up appropriate schemes aiming at marginalized persons acquiring new qualifications. There is a point in supplementing their education making use of all the available financial funds within both national and European schemes. Labour market promotes highly qualified persons. Thus, not only the society but above all the local decision-makers should be interested in investing into the human capital. Business entities also benefit from employing people of suitable qualifications, thanks to which they may develop themselves, implement scientific and technological progress and consequently increase their efficiency. Therefore, in order to boost productivity of the employed staff, companies ought to participate in the costs of raising their qualifications on a larger scale. The chances crated for the excluded population might be regarded as an investment of a certain profit rate in the long run.

Education throughout one’s life

Although there has been a notable educational progress recently, the process is still insufficient in relation to the civilization challenges. There is a constant need for better and more flexible ways of adjusting the educational offer to the changing  demands of the market. It seems worth pointing out that enhancing the educational opportunities for the young and improving the  present skills of the elderly must go hand in hand with a large availibility of loans and social grants for the excluded. It is neccassary to found institutions which help to choose a career so that it corresponds to the market demands as they are expressed by local employers. One should realise, however, that the higher level of education causes gaps between the groups which have an access to knowledge and the groups lacking this access.

Discussing the market of educational opportunities, one cannot neglect referring to the issue of activation of the inhabitants. Its efficiency depends on its character – the more varied it is, the greater its chances to find its way to the excluded. Besides counselling for newly created businesses in the field of manufacturing technologies and their improvement, finding market niches (segmental counselling) and assissting them choosing the range of products, local authorities and third sector institutions should support creating human capital as well, that is to say – mutual relations between individuals and social groups concerning standards and values, as well as activities for the commune’s sake. Additionally, non-governmental institutions in cooperation with local authorities must encourage creative attitudes which lead to the development of self-employment by organisning trainings enabling people to gain knowledge and abilities necessary while setting up and running a business (including public cooperatives). Although apparently such activitties relate to sociological aspects, they perform a crucial role in economic development, and consequently they are conducive to greater social exclusion and prevent economic and social discrimination.

Supplementary education, proffessional courses and extra classes aim at opening oneself towards new possibilities of choice  with which some prospective employers are presented. It often also increases the chances for social inclusion and activization of the excluded. The lack of education or its low standard favours marginalization and isolation, reduces life opportunities at the same time. Only adequately educated people with qualifications for which there is market demand, stand a chance to make informed choices, leading to a harmonious development of both an individual and a group. Accordingly there ought to be created possibilities of re-entering classrooms for the people who dropped out of schools. Simultaneously, premature  withdrawal from studies by people of smaller human capital should be prevented. They need to have an opportunity to participate in the system of supplementary education and to acomplish successive stages of education. The elderly who early dropped out should be given a chance to raise their qualifications, which  will consequently help to reduce the costs of welfare benefits, allowances or early retirement compensation. The main problem is that some people have neither secondary nor vocational education and their skills do not meet the current demands of the local market. They have limited opportunities to improve their education due to their poor intellectual potential and functional illiteracy. For this group it seems necessary to launch such schemes which would make it possible to equip them with basic skills required by labour market, including employment agencies and job counselling, psychological advice and trainings on how to look for a job actively and courses in autopresentation techniques. This is likely to prevent their exclusion, to a certain extent at least. The 21st century enforces life-long education and adjusting ourselves to the constantly changing situation on the labour market.

From generation to generation

The issue of passing on marginalization to one’s offspring seems worth noticing. It manifests itself from the early childhood. During the first stage of adolescence, excluded parents, deprived of work, see no point in sending the children to kindergartens or nursery schools. They cannot afford it either. Therefore such children have less opportunities to achieve skills acquired by their peers. During next years the problem becomes even more serious at school where children from excluded families can be distinquished by their clothes. They do not have the products of ’show-off” consumption – MP3 players, mobile phones, etc. What is more, these children are deprived of the possibility to supply their studies and acquire additional skills, which results in their inferior education. Many times parents who are poorly educated themselves do not consider it important to develop their children’s talents. As a consequence those students obtain worse grades at school, pay less attention to studying, often graduate without suitable qualifications and knowledge required to continue education. There is a huge challenge for contemporary decision-makers – how to activate mechanisms which would prevent passing on social exclusion to the next generations and its aggravating resulting from contacts with marginalized persons exclusively. It seems necessary to implement solutions which can hinder the petrification of infavourable social structure, thanks to providing children and adolescents with the conditions to develop and get education, starting at the pre-school level. The offer presented to such families must combine education and attractive ways of spending free time, which is aimed at their psychophysical development and, as a consequence, preventing this group from deterioration. Exclusion from participation in public life results in lack of access to constructive pastimes. Therefore an individual’s opportunities to develop cognitively are limited, they are prevented from performing social roles that they could manage. The smaller number of developmental chances makes it impossible to take part in managing processes and thus results in lack of participation in both local and higher level authorities. People like that feel ousted from the decion-making process. They are not able to exert any influence on the group within which they function.

The exclusion from participating in social networks is ineed very stigmatising. Such persons are forced to benefit from welfare services in order to satisfy their most basic needs. They benefit from free meals or charity clothes. This scars them for life and makes it virtually impossible to leave this group. Locking onesef within a narrow group is conducive to subsquent automarginalization. Additionally, the lack of stabilization and secure income causes the feeling of uncertainty. Such people cannot afford to purchase goods of higher level. They have no financial power to satisfy any nedds except for the most basic ones. In the consumption era the pressure to possess properties leads to pathological and dysfunctional phenomena. The exclusion from social division of consumer goods, no perspectives for inclusion and non-existent provision for natural needs might result in alcohol abuse, homelessness, entering criminal path or prostitution. Interestingly, the results of exclusion may be its reasons at the same time. The consumerist model of life leads to social problems, the answers to which are beyond the power of local aid institutions. The prevention instruments are in short supply and  available tools often have a short-term, thus demotivating, character.

The right to live a dignified life. How to re-integrate?

Supposing we want to assisst the excluded, we must face a dilemma – whether it is better to help them by providing with material resources or rather focus on creating the opportunities to act and, this way, become included again. It all boils down to determining if the main task is providing direct help or creating opportunities for improving one’s circumstances. Effectivness of our actions will depend on long-term instruments introduced by local authorities. The reform of the rules concerning allocating benefits must be linked with replacing the welfare state policy with workfare policy. Financial approach consisting in non-returnable social allowances has to be replaced by the encouragement to act independently. Support institutions should limit the access to financial resources and minimize them. They ought to rather focus on improving the situation on the local labour market and, thus, stimulate them to act so that the country’s wealth may accumulate. Yet, not a total abolition of direct help is what it is all about. What matters is drawing attention towards its ultimate character, mainly for the radically excluded, from so called “social graveyard”.

Breaking off with the extended social benefit system will be extremely difficult, particularly when it comes to the excluded. They frequently have no chances to satisfy their needs without financial aid. The passive groups became accustomed to the distribution of welfare benefits. Support organisations and local authorities should display more courage to reform ineffective benefits, which are typically short-term ones. Helping the excluded might sometimes result in intensifying their passivness. Welfare benefits alone, without proper comprehesive schemes enabling people to leave the margin, do not usually bring about the expected long-term effects. The necessity to partly participate in the cost of supplementary education, as a rule, forces the ecluded to give up this kind of assisstance. They concentrate mainly on welfare benefits which call for less involvement. These people, in spite of help which is offered in the form of professional re-training, often deliberately resign from it. It seems necessary to set up appropriate rules which make financial support dependent on certain behaviour, aiming at raising the value of one’s capital.

Poland is not an affluent state. There is a shortage of budget funds for establishing new effective work places or to fight the marginalisation. However, if local authorities, in cooperation with third sector organisations, do not begin extensive actions related to inclusion of those who were so far deprived of the chance to exist and co-decide within socio-economical boundaries, it may appear that marginalisation cannot be prevented. The resources necessary to make up for the effects of social exclusion might exacerbate the situation of other socio-economic groups.

While setting up anti-exclusion schemes, one should remember that the basic problem of marginalisation does not consist of the lack of goods only, but it refers to the  inability to infuence one’s own life, insufficient participation in public activities in  fields such as educational system, social services, labour market, health protection, etc. What matters is the activity of local government organisations as well as non-government institutions whose objective is to decrease exclusion and shape remedial policies. The processes of bringing the excluded back to public and economic life are very important. The authorities are obliged to create the conditions which are likely to prevent them from taking up badly-paid jobs in the future and counteract the feeling of inequity and social unjustice.

This article is a part of the publication: „Counteracting social exclusion as an educational task for local authorities”

The following book publications have been used:

T. Atkinson, B. Cantillon, E. Markier, B. Nolan, Social Indicators: The EU and Social Inclusion,

Oxford University Press, New York 2002. za: R. Szarfenberg,

Wykluczenie społeczne i polityka przeciwdziałania ubóstwu.

Ch. Gore, J.B. Fiueiredo, Social exclusion and Anti-Poverty Policy: A Debate, IILS, UNDP,

Nowy Jork, 1997.

D. Niedźwiedzki, Władza – tożsamość – zmiana społeczna, Universitas, Kraków 2003, s. 65.

T. W. Schulz, Investment in Human Capital, The American Economic Review, 1(2), 1961,s.


G. Simmel, Filozofia pieniądza, tłum. A. Przyłębski, Humaniora, Poznań 1997, s. 413-414.

Translation: Magdalena Jermacz,

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About Slawomir Kalinowski

Economist, works at the University of Poznań. His areas of interest include poverty, unemployment, grey zone and social policy.

Fredrich Naumann Foundation For The Freedom
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