Informations and abstract
The authors discuss the reasons, as well as the possible ambiguities both at the conceptual and at the policy making levels of two parallel contemporary shifts: from the concept of poverty to that of social exclusion, from welfare to "activation". While arguing, on the basis of most recent comparative research data, that the conflating of unemployment with poverty and of poverty with social exclusion is only partially supported by empirical data, they critically assess and debate the quality of data in this field. They stress particularly two aspects: the need to have good longitudinal data in order to evaluate both the dynamics of poverty, unemployment, their possible links with social exclusion and the impact of social policies; the need to be aware that data themselves are the outcome of policy systems, which are a crucial element in life-course strategies and options. The characteristics of the population which experiment poverty and social exclusion in different national and local contexts are as much a consequence of personal biographies and labour market conditions as of the package of protective policies (not only concerning poverty) existing and implemented in that particular contexts. On the basis of these findings, the authors conclude with a critical overview of contemporary debates and practices in the direction of "social activation", suggesting that not only there are many meanings attached to them, but that, given the different features of poverty and characteristics of the poor, a both integrated and life course approach in policies in this field may be the most adequate.