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Fighting social exclusion in rural areas

[ Summary ]


Chapter 1:
Social exclusion, a multidimensional phenomenon


1.4 How can poverty and social
exclusion be measured?


Confronted with the magnitude of the phenomenon of exclusion and with the impossibility of reducing unemployment and the social havoc it causes, a lot of governments are beginning to worry and to consider other forms of treatment [15]. Therefore, the problem now is first to determine how many Europeans are living in conditions of poverty or social exclusion. To answer this, a conventional indicator of poverty is usually used, ie. the percentage of households or individuals with less than half the median income. Although for some social categories suffering from exclusion (ethnic minorities, elderly people, people living alone) this indicator is not always relevant, statistics show that single parents, single-parent families, elderly people living alone and the unemployed account for the majority of low-income people.

Social exclusion can also be found in certain geographical locations like the neglected outskirts of certain cities, urban ghettos, remote rural areas, or peripheral areas. When a large number of poor people or people suffering from the same forms of exclusion are concentrated in these same areas, exclusion becomes visible. However, many of those excluded are scattered and therefore “invisible” for society [16].

The concentration of the excluded, in other words visible exclusion, remains a mostly urban phenomenon. It is found particularly in neighbourhoods where there is a high concentration of immigrants or minorities, where the ethnic identity plays a major role in mutual recognition while itself being a factor of exclusion. On the other hand, in rural areas exclusion is less visible, because it is more spread out or even sometimes hidden. That is why in spite of the similarity of the problems, a distinction has to be made between city and country, both in terms of the approach and the policies to fight social exclusion.


[15] Thus in March 1999, the British government
set itself the objective of eradicating poverty among
children. To this end, the social security services
implemented 49 key initiatives and 40 poverty
indicators to measure the impact of their interventions -
the number of indicators itself being an indication of
the complexity of the phenomenon and the difficulty of
the public authorities of grasping the whole problem
and providing standardised answers.

[16] Paul Henderson, Social Inclusion &
Citizenship in Europe, The contribution of community
development, 1997, OPBOUWCAHIER 5.

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