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Social inclusion - VET and higher education Fran Ferrier and Sue North Overview Terms and concepts How is social exclusion measured? Education inequities: from disadvantage to social exclusion Participation and social exclusion Social inclusion policies

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  • Terms and concepts
  • How is social exclusion measured?
  • Education inequities: from disadvantage to social exclusion
  • Participation and social exclusion
  • Social inclusion policies

What do the terms ‘social inclusion’ and ‘social exclusion’ mean?

  • Lots of debate and discussion about concepts and definitions
  • Mirror images?
  • A continuum?
  • Processes or states?
  • How do they differ from poverty, deprivation, disadvantage etc?


  • Adequacy
  • Clarity
  • Scope and application
‘you could be forgiven for thinking that social exclusion is what happens to people who nobody will talk to at parties’.
  • (ABC, Background Briefing 1999)
Definition used in U.K.:
    • Social exclusion is a shorthand label for what can happen when people or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems, such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime environments, bad health and family breakdown.(Social Exclusion Unit, UK)
  • BUT:
    • This fails to identify what it is that happens (Levitas 2006)
An individual is socially excluded if he or she does not participate to a reasonable degree over time in certain activities of his or her society, and (a) this is for reasons beyond his or her control, and (b) he or she would like to participate (Burchardt 2000).


  • What is the scope of these ‘certain activities’ ?
  • Many activities satisfy conditions (a) and (b) but do not represent any form of social exclusion.
  • “The fact that I was not selected to play in the recent NSW State of Origin team despite my availability and willingness (indeed, eagerness!) to play is not an example of social exclusion that has any relevance for social policy (except possibly for public health, but that is another matter!)” (Saunders 2003)

Emerging consensus around SI and SE as processes rather than states

Social exclusion:

The processes that create linked problems such as poverty, disadvantage, deprivation, and marginalization.

Social inclusion:

The processes or actions that are taken to ameliorate the impact of these problems and/or to counter the processes that create them.

These processes can occur simultaneously and can impact on each other

Exclusionary processes can be active (e.g. discrimination) or passive (e.g. unintended consequences).


Processes of social exclusion create linked problems

Processesof social inclusion ameliorate the impact of linked problems such as poverty (e.g. through transfer payments) and homelessness (e.g. through public housing) and/or counter the processes that create them.

Social inclusion and exclusion as processes




Services and resources






Health, etc

Social networks

Social exclusion as a process

where do education and training fit
Where do education and training fit?
  • Not often explicitly discussed in SI/E literature
  • Focus on impact on labour market experience
  • Education has a central role in a spiral of disadvantage:

Low levels of education and skills:

    • can lead to poorer experiences in labour market…
    • which can lead to unemployment, poverty etc…
    • which can cut off people from opportunities for education and training…..
measuring social exclusion
Measuring social exclusion
  • Indicators to measure social exclusion
  • What indicators are being used?
indicators to measure social exclusion
Indicators to measure social exclusion
  • Cultural dimension – diverse norms, values, ways of living
  • Economic dimension – income, employment, housing, work
  • Political dimension – access to utilities, services, education, health
  • Social dimension – family, friends, relationships in community

Poverty & Social Exclusion Survey – UK

  • Children:household income and employment; health; school attainment
  • Young adults:qualifications; income and employment; crime; health
  • Working age adults 25+: income; employment; health
  • Older people: income; health; social services
  • Communities: services; crime; transport; polarisation of income and housing tenure
Social Policy Research Centre - UNSW
  • Disengagement: social & community involvement; holidays & leisure
  • Service exclusion: medical; dental; child care; aged care; disability support; community services
  • Economic exclusion: money for emergencies; assets; individual and household employment
Education Indicators

Limited number of indicators. Commonly:

  • Individual attainment
  • Attainment in the community
  • Focus on children and young adults
  • Indicators reflecting different life stages

Given important role of education in SI there is a need for more and better indicators.

vet and higher education disadvantage and social exclusion
VET and higher education: disadvantage and social exclusion

What can approaches based on social inclusion/exclusion add to what is already known about inequities in higher education and VET?

How can they be used to guide policies and initiatives to address inequities?

current approaches
Current approaches
  • Attention to inequities in higher education and VET centres on ‘disadvantage’
  • Focus on target groups identified as disadvantaged largely on basis of under-representation compared with share of population
  • Has provided a framework for action:
    • Policies at initiatives at national and institutional levels
  • Regular data collection in higher education and VET about target groups
  • Substantial body of research into barriers and risk factors to participation – basis for informed action
  • Disadvantage is wider than under-representation, e.g.
    • Completions, attrition, poor quality experience
    • Over-representation in lower-level courses
  • Flaws in target group approach, e.g.
    • Overlap between groups
    • Multiple and Compound disadvantage
    • Can stigmatise
    • Focus on changing individuals, not systems
he and vet disadvantage can differ across sectors
HE and VET: Disadvantage can differ across sectors
  • Differences in representation, e.g.

People from low SES backgrounds

Indigenous people

    • Both under-represented in higher education
    • but over-represented in VET and in lower level courses
  • Differences in barriers, linked to differences in
    • costs
    • entry requirements,
    • institution and course structures
    • Geographical access
emerging equity groups
Emerging equity groups

From equity research and practice, e.g.:

  • First generation in family to enter higher education
  • People with work and family commitments
  • People entering higher education with VET qualification or without Year 12
  • People entering VET with poor language, literacy and numeracy skills
Using ‘social exclusion’ as a euphemism for disadvantage does not enable additional insights into inequities.

How then to proceed?

comparing disadvantage and social exclusion
Comparing disadvantage and social exclusion

Similarities, e.g.

Disadvantage and social exclusion are both relational concepts

Both are used as shorthand labels for social ills

Both refer to something that is unfair

But they can differ:

Disadvantage = a state (dynamic)

Social exclusion = processes

using them as complements not substitutes
Using them as complements not substitutes:

Looking at inequities through

The lens of disadvantage


The lens of social exclusion =

A more comprehensive picture

application in research
Application in research
  • Disadvantage = outcome of processes of social exclusion
    • What are the indicators of disadvantage?
    • What social exclusion processes create and sustain this disadvantage?
application in policy making
Application in policy-making
  • Social exclusion processes = the disease
  • Disadvantage = the symptoms

For interventions to be most effective both the symptoms and the disease need to be treated simultaneously

participation and social exclusion
Participation and Social Exclusion

People with no post-school qualification or a low level qualification:

  • Who are they?
  • What are the social exclusion processes that affect them?
who are they
Who are they?

Among 20-39 year olds in the GSS:

  • About 52% have no non-school qualification or a low-level qualification
  • Small proportions engaged in study:
    • 28% of those with Yr 12 (15% full-time)
    • 20% of those with Cert I/II (none full-time)
    • 10% of those with Yr 11 or less (8% part-time)
Certificate I/II
    • over-represented in this category are women, people with a disability, people living in rural areas, people in the lowest decile of gross household weekly income and gross personal weekly income; people who speak English as a second language and Indigenous people.
  • Year 11 or less
    • over-represented in this category are men, those in the lowest income deciles, people with a disability; people living in rural areas and Indigenous people.
social exclusion measures
Social Exclusion Measures
  • Economic dimensions
    • Labour force status
    • Principal source of income
    • Reliance on government support
    • Employment in household
    • Employment security
    • Difficulty in paying bills
    • Able to raise emergency money
Political dimensions
    • Remoteness
    • Number of dependent children
    • Access to motor vehicle/transport
    • Disability or long term health condition
    • Self-assessed health
    • Access to technologies
    • Access to education

Social dimensions

    • Household composition
    • Relationship in household
    • Work/family responsibilities
    • Ability to get support if needed
    • Victim of violence
    • Unpaid voluntary work
    • Being part of the community
social inclusion policies
Social Inclusion Policies
  • Europe – Social Protection and Social Inclusion Process – ‘a more cohesive society for a stronger Europe’
    • Monitoring and Reporting framework with flexibility
    • Many initiatives for sharing ideas and information
  • U.K. - emphasis on employment and ‘the most disadvantaged’
    • Personalised case management approaches
    • Place-based approaches
    • Partnerships (govts, employers, community organisations)
  • South Australia – importance of structures and champions
    • Policy lessons – challenge of silos, speed, long-term goals
    • Good ideas – e.g. ICANs
education in si policy
Education in SI policy

Focus on:

  • School achievement (esp literacy and numeracy) and retention (esp early school leavers)
  • (more recently) skills for employment (FE in UK)
  • Little to no attention to higher education