Fighting social exclusion in rural areas
[ Summary ]
Social exclusion, a multidimensional phenomenon
1.6 The fight against social exclusion and rural development
Social exclusion is a complex phenomenon that has to be dealt with
by taking account of the changing job market, the area’s
demographic and geographical data, the references, social links and
income level of the groups concerned and the evolving institutional
responses. Because of its magnitude and its recent characteristics,
the phenomenon is now extremely important.
More than a social, cultural and political preoccupation, the fight
against social exclusion has become an essential and inevitable
component of economic development. It is playing a key role in the
revitalisation of the countryside in particular.
In rural areas, the fight against social exclusion is the
prerequisite to take full advantage of human resources.
Given the handicap created by the scattering of communities and the
lack of jobs, the fight against social exclusion is especially
important for the overall development of rural areas.
In Bazois (Burgundy, France), a “multiservice” association enables
unemployed people to offer local services. This activity is
complemented by an action to recruit the long-term unemployed. They
are offered work in maintaining the environment or developing
tourist sites. In parallel, a training centre meets individualised
needs and offers job training that will lead to stable employment
(development of rural facilities, maintenance of waterways).
The fight against social exclusion creates the conditions for
- It leads to consensus and collective actions, often essential
in launching new activities or capturing new markets.
- It reduces the social cleavages, has a direct impact on the
area’s image and on rural tourism and quality products.
In the southern Iberian peninsula (Alentejo in Portugal and
Andalucia in Spain), because of the very high unemployment rate in
these regions (at 15%, Andalucia had one of the highest rates in
Europe in 1999), the LEADER groups ended up giving top priority to
actions to fight social exclusion. These actions were complementary
to the LEADER actions and were specially oriented towards
In rural areas, the fight against social exclusion creates new
Although initially factors of social exclusion, certain handicaps
specific to the rural world can be turned into development
possibilities and factors of social inclusion.
This is the case of the weight of traditions, presented above as a
factor of exclusion, and of women and young people in particular,
which can on the contrary serve as the basis for new opportunities.
In the Sousa valley, a rural area near Porto in Portugal, women
have been doing embroidery work for centuries. It is a
supplementary source of income, and for those who live alone it is
even the main source of income. This very poorly paid and
disparaged work (EUR 150 per month for a full-time job) keeps the
women who do it as a living in a state of particularly severe
poverty and social exclusion. An association created at the
initiative of the LEADER group worked to professionalise the sector
by reviving traditional embroidery motifs, by improving the
quality, by training the women and by helping them capture upscale
markets. This freed the women from the grip of the traditional
tradesmen. In addition to increasing their income, it was the
entire question of the women’s human dignity that was at stake.
How do we measure the challenges of the fight against social
exclusion in a rural areas? How do we assess the margins of
manoeuvre available for this purpose? These are questions that we
will attempt to answer in chapter II before examining in the
following chapters the question of tools, methods, prospects for
action to fight social exclusion and how this fight can be included
in a wider territorial approach.