by UNE Online

Social exclusion can impact entire families and entire communities, and is therefore an important point of discussion for social work degree seekers. Social inclusion is extremely advantageous to society by contributing to the alleviation of poverty and negating effects of exclusion like decreased productivity and human capital development. Achieving social inclusion requires a multi-level effort. Our latest infographic explores why that is and offers unique solutions for what we can do to create change in our world for the better:

Social inclusion is the allocation of specific rights to every community, group, and person in a society. These rights include healthcare, education, housing, and employment. The World Bank stated, “Social inclusion forms the foundation for shared prosperity and plays a major role in poverty alleviation.” Exclusion, they report, “is costly to communities and nations’ economies — negatively impacting productivity, human capital development, and engagement by citizens.” If social inclusion is so advantageous, why has it been so hard to achieve? How can we, as a society, pinpoint roadblocks and make changes?

Social Inclusion: Benefits Beyond the Definition

The effects of social inclusion on people, and society as a whole go far beyond economics:

Both physical and mental health are impacted by social inclusion or exclusion. Health is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Factors that affect mental health, according to the American Institutes for Research (AIR) include: Social Exclusion, Bullying, Poverty. Due to the lack of funds, only one out of five children who suffer from behavioral or mental disorders get a referral for the help they need.

John Bynner of the University of London Institute of Education reported that children often bear the brunt of their parents’ social exclusion, because it can affect their entire lives due to:

Limited access to social, education, and training resources, affecting literacy and development. This leads to Higher school dropout rates; Alcohol and drug abuse; Problems with law enforcement early in life; Rising crime rates and criminal convictions; Unemployment; Teen pregnancies; Poor mental and physical health. In sum, what hurts our children collectively impairs our future.

Bynner also found early intervention and support are crucial, because the effects of social exclusion early in life lead directly to social exclusion later in life. The social exclusion process has a domino effect, because one problem it causes often supports the occurrence of another. Exclusion can become a cycle without early intervention.

Social Inclusion: It Start with Our Youth

That is why breaking destructive cycles and starting constructive trends Starts with Our Youth. Positive attitudes on social inclusion must start early for maximum reach and impact. Given this, Tolerance.org believes that educators “must prepare students to live in an increasingly diverse society,” so they award their Teaching Tolerance Award to teachers who:

  • Provide students with the tools they need to collaborate and reach their academic goals in a diverse environment
  • Support the practice of reducing social exclusion in and out of the classroom using research and innovation to encourage group interaction and equality.

Many colleges and universities are teaching the concept of social inclusion, embracing the definition of health by the WHO. Educational institutions are empowering future healthcare, social workers, and other professionals to encourage human dignity, respect, and social inclusion by working with communities and individuals to wipe out inequality, violence, and human exploitation.

A powerful example of the challenge and the importance of social initiatives can also be seen over the course president Obama’s administration, in actions spearheaded by the president as well as the rest of the federal government.

LGBT Rights, Obama, and the Federal Government

For instance, LGBT rights advanced tremendously during the Obama administration. In his first two years of office, Obama repealed the military’s ban on gay service members, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, thereby fulfilling his campaign pledge that every worker should be judged on his or her ability to do the job–and nothing else.

Six months into his administration, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the first LGBT Pride reception ever held at the White House.

Outside the Executive branch, the Windsor decision, authored by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2013, overturned a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), creating a ripple effect that impacted future court rulings. For example, Obergefell v Hodges, the second DOMA case, landed in the Supreme Court two years later. At that time, same-sex marriages were legal in 36 states. Urged by President Obama, the Justice Department filed a “friend of the court” or amicus brief, to argue for the rights of same-sex couples to wed in all of the 50 states. The final ruling, issued in June of 2015, ended gay marriage bans nationwide.

Following this establishment of same-sex marriage rights, workplace discrimination is seen by many as the next battle in the ongoing fight for complete LGBT rights.

In 2015, President Obama’s executive order on LGBT Workplace Discrimination went into effect. It shielded federal contractors and subcontractors from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, this protection does not currently extend to all LGBT employees nationwide who work outside of the federal system. Currently, only 21 states offer workplace protection to members of the LGBT communities, and individuals who identify as Transgendered are able to be legally fired in 33 states.

The lack of protection also creates an issue of pay equity when it comes to LGBT persons of color, such that this group is more likely to experience lifelong poverty than those who self-identify as white. Trans individuals are four times as likely to have an annual income of less than $10,000 than cis individuals, with those in marginalized communities being the most affected.

Women’s Right to Equal Pay

Another area of inequality and exclusion that has come under federal scrutiny–though without the same degree of progress–has been women’s right to equal pay. When President Obama first took office, women only earned 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. Seven years later, that difference has only risen to 79 cents, despite Obama’s efforts.

In January of 2009, Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, named in honor of a woman who worked for Goodyear and, because of wage inequality, lost more than $200,000 in earnings. The act enabled future victims of wage discrimination easier access to legal recourse. Then, in July of 2010, Obama openly supported the Paycheck Fairness Act, which was a modern extension of the 1963 Equal Pay Act. This Act stalled in Congress and was defeated; the same thing happened yet again in 2014 when it was reintroduced.

By January of 2014, Obama called attention to the lack of progress, referring to the equal pay issue as an embarrassment in his State of the Union Address, and earning a standing ovation from listeners.

Two years later in January 2016, Obama announced that he had revised the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to allow the Labor Department to collect data in order to pinpoint companies that have unfair wage practices. Under this law, companies with 100 or more workers must report salary data to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) annually, identifying the gender race of every worker along with W-2 earnings, bonuses, taxable benefits, and tips.

Potentially affecting more than 63 million companies, this proposal was rejected by business leaders who felt that the government was interfering in the private business sector, were concerned that the data reporting obligations would create additional work for companies without leading to accurate or usable data due to differences between employer types and industries. They also worried that the law would encourage fraudulent reporting practices, and would otherwise be too difficult for the government to gather and analyze efficiently.

Meanwhile, according to a White House report, the wage gap in the United States is 2.5 percentage points wider than the average for other industrial countries. Countries like the UK, which has lowered its wage gap by nearly 9 percent, along with Ireland, Denmark, Japan and Belgium, which each lowered their wage gap by 7 percent, provide an example for the U.S. to follow in its efforts to achieve greater equality.

The United State of Women Summit, held on May 23, 2016, was hosted by the White House along with the Department of Labor, the State Department, Civic Nation, and the Aspen Institute, featuring the Tory Burch Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and Goldman Sachs 10,000 women. The summit examined improvements in pay inequality in the U.S. during Obama’s administration, as well as global changes. Their collaboration is intended to find answers and solutions to the problems that persist for today’s working women.

As these examples show, the fight for social inclusion goes on, and as more groups form and lobby, more changes will come. Social activists and others must align with the federal government to urge them to pass laws that will fuel change in our society. As this all takes place, a domino effect will be created that, hopefully, will break down the walls of social exclusion around the world.