IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE: The information on this site is subject to a disclaimer and a copyright notice.

Fighting social exclusion in rural areas

[ Summary ]


Chapter 1:
Social exclusion, a multidimensional phenomenon


1.1 What is meant by “social exclusion”?


The various groups working on the problem do not entirely agree on a definition of social exclusion.

EUROSTAT, the statistics agency of the European Commission, considers social exclusion a multidimensional phenomenon that prevents individuals from fully participating in society [6].

In the report “Combating exclusion in Ireland 1990-94”, Patrick Commins sees social exclusion as the result of the failing of one of the four following components:

  • the juridico-legal democratic system, supposed to ensure the social integration or inclusion of all citizens;
  • the labour market, supposed to ensure economic inclusion;
  • the Welfare State, supposed to ensure social inclusion;
  • the family and close friends, supposed to ensure interpersonal inclusion.

In the United Kingdom, for example, the current debate on the policies to be implemented has highlighted three different approaches [7]:

  • an “integrationist” approach, which considers employment the key element of social integration, because it affects income, identity, self-esteem and access to information networks and contacts;

  • a “poverty” approach, which sees the causes of exclusion in low income and insufficient material resources;

  • a “marginality” (underclass) approach, which considers the excluded to be individuals who do not live by the standards commonly accepted by society. They are therefore part of a “poverty culture” or “dependence culture”. In this approach, the excluded are themselves responsible for their state of poverty which is handed down from generation to generation.

In spite of these differences in approach and definition, a distinction needs to be made between unemployment, poverty and social exclusion:

  • Unemployment is the state of anyone who is deprived of paid work at a given moment in his/her working life. If the period of unemployment is too long and if the family or the other personal networks do not step in to provide support, it becomes a source of poverty and social exclusion (long-term unemployment).

  • Poverty is insufficient resources. It translates into non- access to certain basic services and concerns the entire family unit.

  • Social exclusion is a more complex phenomenon involving not only a lack of access to certain services but also socio- demographic factors, socio-cultural status and quality of life standards.

These three social situations overlap, although there is not necessarily a cumulative effect.


[6] EUROSTAT, Statistics in brief,
Population and social conditions, no. 1/2000:
Social exclusion in the Member States of the EU.

[7] Schucksmith Mark; Social Exclusion and
Economic Development in Rural Areas, Arkleton
Centre for Rural Development Research, and
University of Aberdeen. Report presented at the
UK LEADER network seminar, Isle of Skye,
8-9 September 1999, p. 1

European Flag