Income offers only partial gauge for social exclusion, expert says

Income level has traditionally been the most important way to gauge poverty in a country. But now analysts say poverty only measures economic or financial factors in a situation and cannot present a complete enough picture to gauge social exclusion, a far more encompassing state of disadvantage. «It cannot describe the inequalities in other areas of life which are decisive in determining personal prosperity,» said Balourdas, the social welfare specialist. «To understand the essential proportions of poverty, one must give emphasis to other known social disadvantages.» These disadvantages and weaknesses go beyond wage earning and the working life, and including such areas as medical/health coverage and retirement benefits, the support of a network including family, friends and neighbors, and equal opportunities in society for citizens. To better explain the situation, Balourdas looked at European Union data and drew up 11 categories that one must meet in order to avoid social exclusion. These include: – Coverage of basic necessities such as paying monthly bills, a diet of meat and vegetables every second day, and a week of annual vacation. – A livable wage, which is defined as 60 percent above the average national wage. – Adequate housing, which means having enough space for the number of people living there, proper heating, and the existence of bathroom necessities such as a sink and shower or bathtub. – Adequate quality of life, which means having only an acceptable level of noise, pollution, traffic and crime in the area. – Adequate health. – Adequate education. – Proper health coverage and retirement benefits. – Adequate access to employment. – An adequate support network of family, friends or neighbors. – Proper treatment/equal rights for immigrants. Such guidelines «give us the choice to examine social exclusion in a multifaceted way,» Balourdas said. «According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, certain areas that show deficiencies can, on their own, result in dangerous social exclusion. Other areas – such as the quality of life where one lives, poor health and lack of education – are considered important because of their negative effects. «Therefore,» he added, «the first four guidelines could be interpreted as encompassing social exclusion, whereas the rest can be grouped into providing societal information and data about interpersonal relations.»