Social Exclusion in Contemporary Britain

As Levitas (2006, 17) remarks, the definition of social exclusion in terms simply of unemployment obscures poverty among aged women who are economically inactive and in old age. Women earn less than men on average during their working lives and have a longer period of life expectancy in old age. Poverty among elderly women has been linked in a number of studies to pension schemes designed for men working continuously and full-time (Arber amp. Ginn, 2001, 7) and to women having to live on state rather than occupational pensions, and for more years than men (Wenger, 2005, 65). Women are responsible for the major share of unpaid work in a way that constrains their ability to sell their labor in the market place. They comprise the majority (84%) of single parents (Eurostat, 2002) and the majority of the poor.A focus on inequality between those in and out of employment also obscures inequalities between those in work. Gender segregation in the labor force is one of its most highly sustained characteristics. Women are the majority of the unemployed (including the long-term unemployed), the economically inactive, new labor market entrants, and those engaged in `atypical work (defined as part-time contracts, low-paid work, and temporary employment) (Meulders et at., 2004). Equal treatment policies have failed to make much impact on the rigidity of these patterns.There is also a need to discuss the interconnections between Blackman’s social exclusion and social care and aging. As Blackman observes, concepts of social exclusion have some of their roots in discussions about non-participation in the labor market and how to ensure greater inclusion in the processes of economic production. Care and old age challenge such divisions since care is generally seen as non-productive and old age is frequently excluded from employment and retirement but seen by some as a valued status and matter of choice. Older people’s differences may mean that some are more excluded than others, particularly as incomes are increasingly polarised.

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