Social injustice arises from structural inequalities which lead to unequal capabilities and outcomes for excluded and marginalised groups. There is a growing consensus that social justice requires addressing not just income deficits but also structural vulnerabilities and power hierarchies. This Background Note develops a conceptual framework at a number of scales from structural sources of risk to individual experiences of vulnerability. It highlights that in order to tackle multidimensional vulnerability in a sustainable way, social protection programmes need to be designed and governed so as to promote social inclusion and accountability.
To date, social protection programming has largely been a response to shocks and chronic income poverty, but proponents of a social exclusion perspective are increasingly targeting structural inequalities and lifecycle vulnerabilities. This note identifies a number of structural factors which influence the effectiveness of social protection programmes, including the availability of monetary resources, labour market structure, the role of family, state, and private sector in care provision, and local and international laws and norms. The note also discusses constraints on social protection programming from a political economy perspective, recognising that economic constraints are often themselves the outcome of political processes.
The note advocates further research to develop models of good practice for social protection programmes that are responsive to social exclusion. Particularly required are in-depth vulnerability assessments, mixed-methods approaches, in-depth qualitative evidence, a political economy perspective, and work which emphasises principles of citizenship, rights, and empowerment.