Being socially inclusive means making sure that all members of your society feel equally valued. Policies of social inclusion make sure that all individuals and groups are guaranteed equal basic human rights. Sometimes, the aim of social inclusion will involve improving the living conditions and providing opportunities for the most disadvantaged parts of the population, or those who are discriminated based on their economic status, race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc.
Social exclusion is defined by Silver (2007) as: “A multidimensional process of progressive social rupture, detaching groups, and individuals from social relations and institutions and preventing them from full participation in the normal, normatively prescribed activities of the society in which they live.”
There are many different symptoms of social exclusion, such as lack of access to health care, housing, employment, education and other resources needed for normal living. In addition to material deprivation, perpetuating prejudice and harmful stereotypes can also make certain groups more vulnerable to social exclusion, robbing them of their human rights and dignity.
Social exclusion is a global ethical issue. It can lead to health problems, depression, feeling of loneliness as well as risk to safety and lack of opportunities for those who are excluded.
In contrast, social inclusion aims a preventing, reversing and diminishing social exclusion. It is primarily aimed at minorities and vulnerable parts of a country’s population and works at removing barriers that prevent them from fully participating in the public sphere.
Social inclusion means that people feel that they belong, that they can have fulfilling social relationships and that they are valued for their contribution, all of which is an important part of a person’s well-being.
The first step towards social inclusion is recognizing that some are unjustly excluded and that this is a problem.
How to Be Socially Inclusive?
Education can raise awareness and need for socially inclusive behaviour, dispelling common prejudices and fostering solidarity. Social inclusion in schools can teach children not to judge others by the colour of their skin, cultural or other differences. The best way to ensure social inclusion is to teach children that everyone is a person and that everyone deserves a happy life.
Social inclusion can also be enforced by various laws and policies targeting particular groups, e.g. giving incentives to employers to hire people with disabilities, offering scholarships for students from low-income families, and making sure that minorities have political representatives.
Today we face many challenges to social inclusion. Migrants and asylum seekers fleeing from war and famine in pursuit of a normal life for them and their children are denied access to the EU. As nationalist hate speeches stir irrational fear and hatred, we need social inclusion more than ever if we are to make this world a better place for all of us.