Social inclusion is a concept in which all members in a society are given an equal opportunity to provide productive value for society. The basis for this concept stems from providing disadvantaged groups opportunities to be productive, without having to resort to menial labor, as many disadvantaged groups are often forced to. Social inclusion also relates to general benefits that should be equally available to all members of society. Outside of work, this includes access to public goods, like transportation, parks, quality food, and healthcare. By eliminating the force that causes these groups to be confined in areas they may not want to be in, they can lead happier, better lives, and can be more accepted by other cultures.
The issue of social inclusion is not often acknowledged by dominant cultures in some areas. Many times, however, global events highlight the gaps in society, and access to resources. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of these global events. During the pandemic, healthcare and job inequity were top issues around the world. Many people in minority groups lacked the job flexibility to work remotely, presenting a major challenge to parents when schools around the world closed down. Limited capacity on public transportation systems also became an issue, where people were not able to get to stores, appointments, and work as easily. Domestic violence rates against women and children also increased as a result of the lockdown.
Implementing social inclusion programs would effectively solve these issues. Social exclusion comes with many costs, some of which have long-lasting structural ramifications. On a micro-scale, individuals who experience social exclusion also experience lost wages, lower lifetime earnings, poor education, and worse employment outcomes. On a macro scale, the effects are much greater. Worldbank estimates that gender inequality alone has cost $160.2 trillion globally. In a 2018 paper, it was determined that Africa alone lost $2.5 trillion in human capital due to gender inequality and 11.4% of total wealth in 2014.
In order for an individual or group to experience social inclusion they must:
- Experience a sense of belonging
- Be accepted within their communities, for who they are
- Have valued roles in the community
- Actively participate in the community
- Be involved in activities based on their own personal preferences
- Have social relationships with others whom they choose and share common interests
- Have friends
These items are the core components that make other changes effective. Without first breaking down these social barriers, additional funding or increased programs will not have the intended deep, positive effects.