Human and economic well-being are unequally distributed both within societies and between societies across the globe. Understandings of human well-being, and who is responsible for delivering it, vary widely. Equality of opportunity is emphasised in some societies, while others strive for a degree of equality in outcomes. The extent to which individuals, families and other informal actors are responsible for ensuring that core components of well-being are achieved varies, with some societies setting greater responsibility on the state to meet the need for incomes and care. Clearly, very different models in how children, families, older people and other groups are treated have been proven sustainable to date. However, the practicability and sustainability of past choices is in many cases called into question in the face of demographic, economic and social change. For instance, as a result of population ageing, Inter-generational equity has emerged as a major issue in some societies that debate the fairness of their social protection systems. Migration is sometimes portrayed as a solution to demographic or labour market challenges, but the long-term benefits and challenges of migration are inadequately addressed by most polities.
Values, beliefs, ideologies and religions shape ideas of what is feasible and desirable in the area of social inclusion policies. Understandings of the past, especially formative junctures in a country’s history, exert an influence on what we believe to be sustainable solutions to current social and economic challenges. Policy transfer and learning across systems sometimes take place, but arguably still play a minor role in orienting choices.
Benefit of research in the area of inclusive society
How are human needs for education, work, protection against social risks, health care, child care, long-term care in old age, housing and social engagement currently met? How are these needs changing, and how should the Irish society and societies globally respond? Is it possible to develop policies that align with social, economic and environmental sustainability? How can policies and interventions make use of individual agency, while taking into account the centrality of social structures in shaping life courses? These are some of the grand challenges addressed by Trinity researchers within the Inclusive Society theme; challenges that every society has to answer in order to remain economically competitive and socially cohesive.
Inclusive society research at Trinity
Trinity College Dublin has particular strengths in the areas of:
- Investigating the early parts of the life course (through Growing Up in Ireland, a longitudinal study of childhood and youth in Ireland – see www.growingup.ie )
- Investigating middle and later parts of the life course (through the Irish Longitudinal Study of Ageing – see also the Trinity Research Theme of Ageing and www.tcd.ie/tilda/ )
- Understanding intergenerational relations, solidarity and conflict (see www.sparc.tcd.ie/generations)
- Understanding the lives of immigrants as they arrive and build lives in Ireland (www.tcd.ie/immigration/)
The research champion for this theme is Professor Virpi Timonen.