Right Support for Disadvantaged People

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Privilege, instead of hard work and ability, plays a major role in a person’s economic prosperity. In a meritocracy-based world where everything is judged solely based on effort and innate talent, a person’s social mobility mirrors only depends on how hard they work. However, structural inequalities such as ethnicity and gender privileges some and disadvantages other. These inequalities are mostly predisposed, but in some cases, disadvantaged people can still pull themselves up provided they have the right support,

In 1958, the term “meritocracy” was used by Michael Young in his work “The Rise of Meritocracy”, which was a satirical piece aimed at the UK’s Tripartite System.

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Young claimed that: in the System, merit equals intelligence plus effort.1 This can be understood as merit is based off innate talents (intelligence) and hard work (effort). The idea of awarding people based on their achievement is further promoted by the rise of neo-liberalism in the Western world. Neo-liberalism focuses on the individual, instead of the collective like Keynesianism which encourage the government to provide a safety net and full employment for the people (Mendes 1998, 2009). Agency is now crucial to the individual’s success and they alone are responsible for their rise and fall. However, this concept presumes that structural inequality doesn’t exist and only hard work and talent matters (Colic-Peisker & Johnson 2012). In reality, privilege, caused by being apart of socially constructed groups (race, gender, class, etc), grant individual with access to resources and institutional powers that are beyond the common advantages of marginalised citizens (Pease 2013). This provides people with privilege to have the opportunity to have upward social mobility, which allow them to heighten their economic well-being. Although meritocracy and the individuality of neo-liberalism exist to justify structural inequalities while shifting the blame onto the individual’s agency, this idea denies structural inequalities as a factor to success and thus is not viable.

Structural inequalities are mostly predetermined and cannot be controlled by the person it’s affecting. Ethnic background is one such predisposition and it can privilege some and disadvantage others. For examples, the Cronulla Riot (2005) was caused by white Australian males who decided they have the power to determine who is Australian. They indiscriminatory attacked whoever wasn’t white completely disregard the victims’ birthplace (Perera 2006). This happened in a country where multiculturalism is often associated to the national identity. White supremacy is further entrenched by John Howard, a former prime minister, who placed a heavy emphasis on people of European background in his version of the Australian identity, thus anyone not of Anglo-Saxon background was considered the “deviant other” (Bauman 2014) and was considered to be marginal. Thus, restricting the minority’s social mobility and disrupt their economic well-being as they are not presented the same opportunity as the majority. Cultural diversity can also affect the level of education. According to Ameneh Shahaeian, children from different cultural background are encourage to others in different way. In Eastern cultures, children are instructed to be silent, not to argue with adults, and not to speak up, being conservative overall. On the contrast, theses characteristics are not valued in Western cultures as they resemble shyness (Shahaeian 2014). As a result, children develop their cognitive and social skills in different paces based on where they come from. This is a problem for Australia in particular, especially with the “closing the gap” issue that has existed for over 50 years, but the Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islanders children still feel “isolated, not understood and not valued at school”. Restriction of education affects social mobility as it limits the level of opportunity the individual is presented with and thus disrupting their economic wellbeing. Holistically, racial background is a privilege for those of the majority that allows them to have more opportunity presented to them and thus, have higher level of social mobility than the minority.

Beside racial background, gender is also an important factor that exacerbated inequality. According to Gideon Calder, gender has been neglected in mainstream political theory up to the late 20th century, one of the prominent features is that the assumption of people who matter, are men. This goes even beyond as male interests are considered universal and men represent human as a specie. Furthermore, when discussing social justice, philosophers often overlook gender difference as a defining factor, which leads to assuming and neglecting gender. While the gender pay-gap is slowly closing and more women are in top level positions, the division of domestic labour (housework) still falls along the traditional gender lines. As a result, women now have a growing importance in the paid workforce, but the responsibility of housework and childcare still falls on them. Moreover, during their upbringing, parents often encourage their daughter not to have a career but instead, focus on having a family and caring for them (Calder 2016). This restriction causes by the patriarchy and internalised valued instilled in women during their childhood has denied them of role they could have done as well as men if equal opportunity present itself to them. The gender wage gap, male dominated industries (such as computer programmers, constructions, engineers, etc) exists to limit women of their upward social mobility. Even though in recent years, women have achieved incredible feats, such as Katie Bouman who develop an algorithm that processes the first ever image of a black hole, and men has been reported to spend more time on housework and childcare. The discrimination is still rampant and only men with higher level of education seem to understand this. To put things under one roof, gender bias and affinity limit the level of opportunity to women and thus deny them the ability to have upward mobility by themselves, impacting their economic prosperity.

The previous two ideas touch on predisposed factors that affect a person’s social mobility and that by being certain gender or ethnic background, economic prosperity would be easier to achieve for some. However, having the right support and encouragement can precipitate the individual’s success. In a research conducted by Maria Gardner, Kirsty Morrin and Geoff Payne, they interviewed two groups of informants, the ‘Care’ group and informants from ‘Stead Street’. Participants from the ‘Care’ group all shared an absence of conventional family which disadvantaged them with the lack of certain predisposition discussed in previous arguments (cultural and gender upbringing). While people from ‘Care’ group associated their success to personal agency and hard work, they didn’t deny the work of other people in their success, siblings act as older role models or foster carers who lacked knowledge of higher education but provided emotional support instead, etc. Despite being disadvantage by not having a conventional family, informants in the ‘Care’ group had a strong network of support which enabled them to have access to university and achieve upward social mobility.

Ultimately, privilege is pivotal to an individual’s economic prosperity as it can either limit or expand their level of opportunity which allow them to have social mobility and economic wellbeing. While the neo-liberalism focuses on the individual’s agency and a meritocracy-based society exists, this is false. Structural inequalities such as race and gender prevent this by creating external barriers (racism, gender affinity) and internal barriers (cultural upbringing). However, with the right support, people with predisposed disadvantages can still achieve success and prosperity.

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Right Support for Disadvantaged People. (2021, Jun 03). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/right-support-for-disadvantaged-people/