Social exclusion is a complex and multilayered process that involves denial or lack of rights, goods and services, resources and the inability to take part in healthy relationships and activities that are available to the majority of people in the society (Pemberton, Sutton & Fahmy, 2013). It manifests itself in economic, socio-cultural and political dimensions. Social exclusion reduces not only the quality of life of the affected individuals but also the equity and togetherness in society.It is a common knowledge that social exclusion is connected to challenges such as low incomes, high crime prone environments, and poor housing among others. Like many other countries in the world, some people in the Republic of Ireland experience social exclusion. Social exclusion affects the disadvantaged in the community.This paper intends to look into one aspect of social exclusion and the interaction between this forms of social exclusion with the Irish social policy.
Poverty refers to a general scarcity or a state of an individual who lacks a certain level of material possessions and money (Engbersen, Schuyt, Timer &Van, 2006). Poverty has dimensions that include social, political and economic. It is either defined in two major aspects; absolute poverty which implies to the extreme lack of means to meet basic needs and relative poverty which relate to the individuals social-economic position with respect to the rest of the society (Engbersen, Schuyt, Timer &Van, 2006). Ireland suffers poverty.
In Ireland, poverty is measured by two concepts: the relative income poverty and consistent poverty (Gordon, 2006). The latter form of poverty is associated with measuring revenue and lack of material. The Irish government uses consistent poverty in the process making policies. Poverty is in both rural and urban centers. Both rural and consistent urban poverty in Ireland stands at 7% while relative poverty stands at 23% and 16% respectively for rural and urban areas (Shubin, 2010).
In Ireland, rural population accounts for 40 to 60% of the countrys total population. 7 % of the rural population live in consistent poverty. Interestingly urban poverty is equal to the rural poverty in Ireland (Shubin, 2010). Rural poverty gets little attention as a definite policy subject in social policy. Particular attention is on subsets, levels of individual lifecycles and societies regardless of their location.
Rural areas in Ireland are described in several ways since there is no single definition of rural areas. For instance, the Irish census of the population represents all people staying in settlements of 1500 individuals in a rural population and, therefore rural areas includes villages of not more than 1500 individuals and those living in the countryside (Haase & Walsh, 2007). However, the household budget survey defines rural population or households as all those that are living on the edges of the urban centers and towns.
Rural areas are further classified as areas that are strong, weak, changing, and areas that are culturally distinct. This classification uses distinctive features such as agriculture, geographical location, and culture (Haase & Walsh, 2007). Rural areas experience unique socio-economic problems. Such areas have lagged behind, regarding social and economic planning whereby the adversely affected households cannot compete in the market for their needs and make purchases of priced products such as homes and cars.
In the marginalized rural areas, the main problems include poor broadband and transport connectivity, lack of immediate access to healthcare, high- income employments and over-reliance on welfare payments from the government. Public service providers find it tough to achieve economies of scale in rural areas of low population. The government faces an enormous task in trying to alleviate the imbalance between economic development and the social provision that exist in the countryside and the most developed eastern Ireland (Haase &Walsh, 2007).
Characteristics of rural poverty
As regards the characteristics of poverty, its measurement must be understood. Irish programs and policies emphasize two approaches- relative income poverty and consistent poverty (Whelan, 2007). The consistent poverty approach is used with a particular focus on features of material deprivation and low income. As such, indicators of deprivation are based on what the people of Ireland consider necessary for basic standards of living while a more rigorous criterion is devised to determine income poverty (Whelan, 2007).
However, this strategy or approach has been found to be inadequate since it does not take into account the rise in standards of living and tends not to measure poverty. Instead, it signifies how income is distributed. In light of these limitations, consistent poverty index has been adopted. It determines the ratio of the population that has an income below a certain threshold. Moreover, it fully defines individuals who are deprived goods or services that are necessary for basic standards of living.
Rural poverty, however, as a particular and differently identifiable subject lacks a definite position in the Irish policy documents (Whelan, 2007). It takes various subheadings in the national policy papers. Some reports have identified rural poverty as having precise impacts since its manifestation is made worse by different aspects of physical separation and population dependence. As such, over time, less prominence was afforded to poverty. However, new policy programs focusing on social exclusion in its regional perspective were developed. Irish regions have areas of poverty and deprivation regardless of the areas that these regions are located.
In this regard, social inclusion is a primary target (Whelan, 2007). This would entail a policy that targets those that are poverty stricken in urban areas and at the same time offer benefits such as infrastructural development to rural areas. In the course of time, programs such as 2007 Action Plan for Social Inclusion and National Development Plan 2007- 2013 were merged to create a more pragmatic framework that adopted the lifecycle stage as an optimal framework to fight social exclusion (Whelan, 2007).
This new approach focuses on reducing children with literacy difficulties in the disadvantaged societies and at the same time increase those remaining in education at higher levels. It also aims at facilitating those on welfare payments to have access to training, education, and work. Improved logistics of care for the aged at both home and community level thereby enhancing pension payments. The plan also emphasized in communities by promoting key policies such as housing and health services and supporting these communities in their efforts in mobilizing their capacities to enable them to participate in the main development process, at the same time the policy aimed at helping these communities by seeking locally appropriate remedies.
Cross-sectional analysis of poverty and social exclusion
Poverty and social exclusion in Ireland take various forms. For instance, geographic location- poverty in Ireland is more in the rural areas. However, this does not imply that poverty is confined to the countryside. Both relative income poverty and consistent poverty differs in these regions. Consistent poverty among households practicing agriculture is relatively lower than non- agriculture and metropolitan households (Whelan, 2007).
Poverty among the farming households arises from a lack of other sources of income and the fact that they are small-scale farmers. Recently, poverty has reduced in the rural areas due to a decline in dependence on farming employment, state subsidies that have resulted in an increase in income of the rural farming communities (Haase & Walsh, 2007). The government policies on taxation, social insurance, and social transfers that aim to bring the incomes of the rural agriculture households equivalent to the state average also minimize poverty. Economic activities coupled with market structures do not favor individuals with low educational knowledge and skills. This is because of the recent restructuring of the economy with a focus on technology and knowledge oriented. As a result, poverty and unemployment have a link.
Further, there are poor employees. Coincidentally, these employees are in low-skilled, casual or seasonal employment. While job growth has been experienced in Irish major cities, it has brought about another twist in the demarcation of poverty stricken by the virtue of their location being out of sync with the urban employment (Whelan, 2007). The increase in employment has had an impact on increasing use of private transport and. Therefore, varying the distribution of households owning cars exists between the rural areas bordering eastern and western cities. Poverty in the countryside is distributed in relation to how a selective rural area is proximate to any urban center further promoting social exclusion. Exclusion is also furthered by the lack of access to credit facilities t aspiring entrepreneurs who are in the low-income bracket. Individuals from the rural areas can access credit facilities from local credit unions but hardly from the commercial banks.
Social problems such as access to medical and long-term care, inadequate housing, access to education and child poverty are prevalent in the rural areas especially the remote rural areas (Whelan, 2007). Rural areas have the highest numbers of the elderly and living alone and persons living with a disability. It follows that these fields demand more of medical and long-term care. However, the supply of this general facility does not meet the demand. This is because the state's policy tends to centralize facilities such as hospitals in areas where they will have high economies of scale such as in urban centers. Whereas most of the metropolitan population have a high uptake of expensive and technologically advanced care, the rural population prefers cheap and less technologically advanced care, but that is long term.
Moreover, the rural areas experience a housing problem with the rural houses being of poor quality and highly deteriorated, unlike housing quality in the urban centers. Access to education is widespread in Ireland because the government provides education and transport for the learners freely. However, uptake of education in the rural areas is lower than in urban centers this is concerning different levels of education. The lower level of education correlates to poverty as such rural populations are poor. Children account for a higher number of people in consistent poverty in Ireland.
Poverty and policies in Ireland
The policies to curb poverty in Ireland occur in several categories. The categories include the European Union stimulated policies, policies with a national origin with distinct rural focus and policies with national origination that target to fight poverty and social exclusion.
The European Union spurred policies
EU uses two major systems in an attempt to conquer poverty in Ireland (Laffan & O'mahony, 2008). The programs include the Common Agricultural Policy and regional policy. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) focuses on farmers through its guarantee fund. It finances market measures and offers direct aid to farmers. The intended effect of this program is to correct the policies of market-based payments and supply restrictions that have seen small-scale farmers pushed out (Laffan & O'mahony, 2008). The policy further intends to eradicate the problems of the small producers. The policy, however, emphasizes on efficiencies in production, increasing the level of production, quality, and safety and increased competitiveness the Irish agri-based products...
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