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SOCIAL DISADVANTAGE: MORE THAN DOLLARS June 9, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Social Environment.
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The problem with economics, writes Ross Gittins in The Sydney Morning Herald is that everything is measured in dollars.

He quotes Professor Peter Saunders, of the University of NSW who argues that lack of income, or poverty,  is one aspect of a mix of deprivation and social exclusion that together constitutes social disadvantage.

Ross Gittins writes:

”Social disadvantage” refers to a range of difficulties that block life opportunities and prevent people from participating fully in society. Although poverty is a factor contributing to disadvantage, the root causes of disadvantage extend beyond the lack of money and need to be identified and tackled separately.

. . .  The concept of ”deprivation” has been developed to try to measure poverty more directly. It seeks to identify what is an unacceptable standard of living by using community views to specify the items and activities that are regarded as normal or customary in a particular society at a particular time.

Surveys show that the list of items Australians regard as the ”essentials of life” include such things as medical treatment if needed, warm clothes and bedding if it’s cold, a substantial meal at least once a day, and the ability to buy medicines prescribed by a doctor. By contrast, the concept of ”social exclusion” focuses on how relationships, institutions, patterns of behaviour and other factors (including lack of resources) prevent people from participating fully in the life of their community.

Australian research has divided social exclusion into three domains: disengagement, service exclusion and economic exclusion. Indicators of disengagement include: no regular social contact with other people, children don’t participate in school outings, children have no hobby or leisure activity, and unable to attend wedding or funeral in the past 12 months.

Indicators of service exclusion include: no access to a local doctor or hospital, no access to dental treatment, no child care for working parents, no aged care for frail older people, and no access to a bank or building society. Indicators of economic exclusion include: not having $500 in savings for use in an emergency, having to pawn or sell something in the past 12 months, not having spent $100 on a special treat in the past 12 months, and living in a jobless household.

The groups with the highest risk of facing ”deep exclusion” are (in declining order) unemployed people, public renters, lone parents, indigenous Australians and private renters.

Self sufficiency and individual responsibility in a social and human context that enables and promotes human development is a skill set and an attitude. It is interesting to observe that people who are successful, for example with regard to the criterion of longevity, can also be deficient in some ways.

ELSEWHERE:

Brian at Larvatus Prodeo takes up the Gittin’s thesis quoting Tony Vinson to the effect that the social environment created can be “more than the sum of individual and household disadvantages” within specific localities.

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