Alula Berhe Kidani
Social Justice as a concept arose in the early 19th century during the Industrial Revolution and subsequent civil revolutions throughout Europe, which aimed to create more egalitarian societies and remedy capitalistic exploitation of human labor. Because of the stark stratifications between wealthy and the poor during this time, early social justice advocates focused primarily on capital, property, and the distribution of wealth.
By the mid-20th century, social justice had expanded from being primarily concerned with economics to include other spheres of social life to include the environment, race, gender, and other causes and manifestations of inequality. Concurrently, the measure of social justice expanded from being measured and enacted only by the nation-state (or government) to include a universal human dimension. For example, governments (still today) measure income inequality among people who share citizenship in common. But social justice can also be considered at the level of humanity as a whole. As the United Nations states: “Slaves, exploited workers and oppressed women are above all victimized human beings whose location matters less than their circumstances.”
Social Justice Issues
Social justice issues can occur in relation to practically any aspect of society where inequality can arise as a result of unjust prejudices or policies.
Social Justice Types
Social justice issues can be delineated into two categories, although they are often co-dependent: Inter-Social Treatment and Unequal Government Regulation.
Inter-Social Treatment involves treatment of a group(s) of other people based on personally-held biases and prejudices. These prejudices most often manifest in sociological categories such as: Race, Gender, Age, Sexual Orientation, Religion, Nationality, Education and Mental or Physical Ability.
Unequal Government Regulation involves laws and regulations that purposefully or otherwise create conditions that obstruct, limit, or deny a group(s) access to the same opportunities and resources, relative to the rest of society. These laws can intentionally (explicitly) or unintentionally (implicitly) create the conditions for social injustice. Areas in which government policy often gives rise to social inequality and injustice include: Voting Laws (i.e. redistricting and voter ID), Policing Laws (i.e. traffic, search and seizure, and drug scheduling), Environmental Laws (i.e. clean water and air, industrial waste disposal), Health Care Laws (i.e. insurance mandates and coverage eligibility) , Education Laws (i.e. public school segregation and integration), Labor Laws (i.e. worker’s rights, occupational health and safety).
Social inequality is the condition of unequal access to the benefits of belonging to any society. In a purely equal society, every citizen is equally able to contribute to the overall wellbeing of that society, and they are equally able to benefit from their membership within that society.
Social Inequality Modes
Social inequality is usually the result of inter-social treatment (biases and prejudices) that inform unjust government regulations). Social inequality can be further broken down into two modes: direct and indirect.
Direct Social Inequality occurs when unfair treatment of a group (or groups) is deliberate and can be present in both community and government capacities. Direct inequality is a purposeful act that takes away resources, opportunities and/or rights from some and not others. Examples include: Governmental: Legislation mandating the segregation of schools and other public places along racial lines , Inter-Social: Business owners refusing to serve clients based on sexual orientation, Indirect Social Inequality occurs when unfair treatment of a group (or groups) is not the explicit purpose of a policy or action, but still results in social inequality. Examples include: Governmental: Legislation that eliminates or limits early and mail-in voting and/or requires photo ID. The stated purpose of these laws is to mitigate voter fraud but the consequence is that people who often can’t vote in-person only on Election Day (students, the elderly, or those who can’t otherwise afford to leave work or transport themselves to polling stations) are disadvantaged.
Inter-social: Purchasing clothing that was made in sweat shops. Sweat-shop laborers are overworked, underpaid, and often work in unsafe working conditions, hindering their ability to contribute to and benefit from society. So while buying clothing itself does not create social inequality, it supports conditions that do. Buying food and produce that use harmful pesticides
Indirect social inequality can be avoided if the consequences are elucidated through education and transparency.
ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization
Adopted in 2008 by the representatives of governments, employers and workers from all ILO member States, the Declaration expresses the contemporary vision of the ILO’s mandate in the era of globalization.
The landmark ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization is a powerful reaffirmation of ILO values and ILO’s key role in helping to achieve progress and social justice in the context of globalization. The Declaration promotes decent work through a coordinated approach to achieving four strategic objectives: employment, social protection, social dialogue, and fundamental principles and rights at work. The impact of the Declaration, in particular the extent to which it has contributed to promoting the aims and purposes of the Organization through the integrated pursuit of the strategic objectives, is the subject of a Conference review in 2016.
The International Labour Conference adopted the Social Justice Declaration on 10 June 2008 together with a Resolution on strengthening the ILO’s capacity to assist its Members’ efforts to reach its objectives in the context of globalization . The Social Justice Declaration is the third major statement of principles and policies adopted by the International Labour Conference. It builds on the Declaration concerning the aims and purposes of the ILO (Declaration of Philadelphia) (1944) and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998) .
The Declaration is the outcome of tripartite consultations that started in the wake of the Report of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization . By adopting this text, the governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations of the ILO’s 187 member States commit to enhance the ILO’s capacity to advance these goals through the Decent Work Agenda. The Declaration institutionalizes the concept of decent work recognized since 1999, placing it at the core of the Organization’s policies to reach its constitutional objectives.