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The concept of social exclusion developed in France in the 1980s to draw attention to groups who were left out of society, such as people with disabilities, sole parents and unemployed people.

The traditional poverty approach focused on basic needs such as education, health services, clean water, sanitation, food and shelter. Leading thinkers, such as Peter Townsend in the United Kingdom, developed the concept of relative deprivation, which considered not only poverty but also an individual’s capacity to achieve an accepted standard of living. More recently, poverty has been defined even more broadly to include non-material aspects such as denial of rights, lack of voice, stigma and lack of respect.

Social theorists have increasingly focused on these wider aspects of disadvantage to explain the stubborn levels of poverty and inequality in developed countries.

Drawing on pivotal work by the development economist Amartya Sen in the 1990s, researchers and policy analysts have brought together the multidimensional idea of disadvantage and Sen’s individual capabilities theories into the current concept of social exclusion.


To read more technical information about how the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Melbourne Institute measure exclusion see:

Scutella, R, Wilkins, R & Horn, M 2009, Measuring poverty and social exclusion in Australia: a proposed multi-dimensional framework for identifying socio-economic disadvantage (PDF, 494 KB) , Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research and Brotherhood of St Laurence, Melbourne.

Scutella, R, Wilkins, R & Kostenko, W 2009, Estimates of poverty and social exclusion in Australia: a multi-dimensional approach (PDF, 1.2 MB), Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research and Brotherhood of St Laurence, Melbourne.

To read more about poverty, deprivation and social exclusion see:

Australian Social Inclusion Board 2012, Social inclusion in Australia: how Australia is faring, 2nd ed, Commonwealth Government of Australia, Canberra.

Headey, B 2006, A framework for assessing poverty, disadvantage and low capabilities in Australia (PDF file, 182 KB), Melbourne Institute report no. 6, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, Melbourne.

Levitas, R, Pantazis, C, Fahmy, E, Gordon, D, Lloyd, E & Patsios, D 2007, The multi-dimensional analysis of social exclusion (PDF file, 1.7 MB), for Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Cabinet Office, Social Exclusion Task Force, London.

McLachlan, R, Gilfillan, G & Gordon, J  2013, Deep and persistent disadvantage in Australia, rev., Productivity Commission Staff Working Paper, Canberra.

Saunders, P, Naidoo, Y & Griffiths, M 2007, Towards new indicators of disadvantage: deprivation and social exclusion in Australia (PDF file, 826 KB), Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney.

Sen, A 1999, Development and freedom, Oxford University Press.

Townsend, P 1979, Poverty in the United Kingdom, Allen Lane, Penguin and University of California Press, London and Berkeley, CA.

Vinson, T, Brown, N, Graham, K & Stanley, F 2009, A compendium of social inclusion indicators: how’s Australia faring?, Social Inclusion Unit, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra.

Social exclusion monitor bulletin

Read past issues of the bulletin published by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research and the Brotherhood of St Laurence:

Azpitarte, F 2015, Social exclusion monitor bulletin June 2015 (PDF, 352 KB)

Azpitarte, F 2013, Social exclusion monitor bulletin October 2013 (PDF, 497 KB) 

Azpitarte, F 2012, Social exclusion monitor bulletin December 2012 (PDF, 185 KB)

Azpitarte, F 2012, Social exclusion monitor bulletin April 2012 (PDF, 185 KB)

Wilkins, R, Scutella, R and Horn, M 2011 Social exclusion monitor bulletin April 2011 (PDF, 153 KB)

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