Social Exclusion: the Concept and Application to Developing Countries

Date: May, 2001
ODID Working Paper No. 72
Author(s): Ruhi Saith (QEH)

The feasibility of operationalisation of the 'social exclusion' concept in developing countries is investigated in this paper. The origins of the approach in relation to the welfare state and unemployment status and its spread in Western Europe and developing countries are discussed briefly. Some studies operationalising the concept in Western Europe and developing countries are presented. The differences in the social security arrangements between industrialised and developing countries that require the concept to be altered to allow implementation in local contexts are discussed. Such attempts however appear to largely result in a repetition of research that has already been conducted within frameworks that have developed in developing countries (basic needs, capabilities, sustainable livelihoods, risk and vulnerability, participatory approaches) in parallel to the 'social exclusion' concept in industrialised countries. While most features of the 'social exclusion' concept (attention to multiple dimensions, social relationships, assessing the poverty of individuals relative to others in society and concern with dynamics of poverty) are shared by concepts implemented in developing countries, these frameworks, could benefit by taking from social exclusion its emphasis on investigating the processes that lead to poverty. It would however be sufficient to incorporate an emphasis on looking at processes within pre-existing frameworks in developing countries, rather than re-doing poverty analyses under the rubric of 'social exclusion'.

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