A social issue is a problem that influences a considerable number of the individuals within a society. It is often the consequence of factors extending beyond an individual's control, and is the source of a conflicting opinion on the grounds of what is perceived as a morally just personal life or societal order. Social issues are distinguished from economic issues; however, some issues (such as immigration) have both social and economic aspects. There are also issues that don't fall into either category, such as warfare.
There can be disagreements about what social issues are worth solving, or which should take precedence. Different individuals and different societies have different perceptions.
There are a variety of methods people use to combat social issues. Some people vote for leaders in a democracy to advance their ideals. Outside the political process, people donate or share their time, money, energy, or other resources. This often takes the form of volunteering. Nonprofit organizations are often formed for the sole purpose of solving a social issue. Community organizing involves gathering people together for a common purpose.
A distinct but related meaning of the term "social issue" (used particularly in the United States) refers to topics of national political interest, over which the public is deeply divided and which are the subject of intense partisan advocacy, debate, and voting. Examples include same-sex marriage and abortion. In this case "social issue" does not necessarily refer to an ill to be solved, but rather to a topic to be discussed.
Versus personal issues
Personal issues are those that individuals deal with themselves and within a small range of their peers and relationships. On the other hand, social issues involve values cherished by widespread society. For example, a high unemployment rate that affects millions of people is a social issue.
The line between a personal issue and a public issue may be subjective and depends on how groups are defined. However, when a large enough sector of society is affected by an issue, it becomes a social issue. Returning to the unemployment issue, while one person losing their job is a personal and not a social issue, firing 13 million people is likely to generate a variety of social issues.
Valence issues versus position issues
A valence issue is a social problem that people uniformly interpret the same way. These types of issues generally generate a widespread consensus and provoke little resistance from the public. An example of a valence issue would be child abuse, which is condemned across several societies to a large enough degree that some social scientists might speak of them as though they are universal, for the sake of illustration.
By contrast, a position issue is a social problem in which the popular opinion among society is divided. Different people may hold different and strongly-held views, which are not easily changed. An example of a position issue is abortion, which has not generated a widespread consensus from the public, in some countries.
Here are some generic types of social issues, along with examples of each.
In most countries (including the developed countries), many people are poor and depend on welfare. In 2007 in Germany, one in six children depended on welfare. That is up from only one in seventy-five in 1965.
So-called "problem neighbourhoods" exist in many countries. These neighbourhoods tend to have a high drop-out rate from secondary school, and children growing up in these neighbourhoods have a low probability of going to college compared to children who grow up in other neighbourhoods. Abuse of alcohol and drugs is common in these neighbourhoods. Often these neighbourhoods were founded out of best intentions.
Widespread health conditions (often characterized as epidemics or pandemics) are of concern to society as a whole. They can harm quality of life and the ability of people to contribute to society and to work, and most problematically result in death.
Infectious diseases are often public health concerns because they can spread quickly and easily, affecting large numbers of members. The World Health Organization has an acute interest in combatting infectious disease outbreaks by minimizing their geographic and numerical spread and treating the affected. Other conditions for which there is not yet a cure or even effective treatment, such as dementia, can be viewed as public health concerns in the long run.
Age and the life course
Throughout the life course, there are social problems associated with different ages. One such social problem is age discrimination. An example of age discrimination is when a particular person is not allowed to do something or is treated differently based on age.
Social inequality is "the state or quality of being unequal". Inequality is the root of a number of social problems that occur when things such as gender, disability, race, and age may affect the way a person is treated. A past example of inequality as a social problem is slavery in the United States. Africans brought to America were often enslaved and mistreated, and did not share the same rights as the white population of America (for example, they were not allowed to vote).
A number of civil rights movements have attempted to, and often succeeded at, advancing equality and extending rights to previously marginalized groups. These include the women's rights movement (beginning around the 1920s), the civil rights movement in the United States for African-American equality (beginning around the 1950s) and the LGBT rights movement (beginning around the 1960s).
Education and public schools
Education is arguably the most important factor in a person's success in society. As a result, social problems can be raised by the unequal distribution of funding between public schools, such as that seen in the United States. The weak organizational policy in the place and the lack of communication between public schools and the federal government has begun to have major effects on the future generation. Public schools that do not receive high standardized test scores are not being funded sufficiently to actually reach the maximum level of education their students should be receiving.
Work and occupations
Environmental racism exists when a particular place or town is subject to problematic environmental practices due to the racial and class components of that space. In general, the place or town is representative of lower income and minority groups. Often, there is more pollution, factories, dumping, etc. that produce environmental hazards and health risks which are not seen in more affluent cities.
The abortion debate is the ongoing controversy surrounding the moral, legal, and religious status of induced abortion. The sides involved in the debate are the self-described “pro-choice” and “pro-life” movements. “Pro-choice” emphasizes the right of women to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy. “Pro-life” emphasizes the right of the embryo or fetus to gestate to term and be born. Both terms are considered loaded in mainstream media, where terms such as “abortion rights” or “anti-abortion” are generally preferred. Each movement has, with varying results, sought to influence public opinion and to attain legal support for its position, with small numbers of anti-abortion advocates using violence, such as murder and arson.
For many people, abortion is essentially a moral issue, concerning the commencement of human personhood, the rights of the fetus, and a woman's rights over her own body. The debate has become a political and legal issue in some countries with anti-abortion campaigners seeking to enact, maintain and expand anti-abortion laws, while abortion rights campaigners seeking the repeal or easing of such laws while expanding access to abortion. Abortion laws vary considerably between jurisdictions, ranging from outright prohibition of the procedure to public funding of abortion. Availability of safe abortion also varies across the world.
A number of social issues have taken prominence in the history of the United States. Many have waxed or waned over time as conditions and values have changed. The term "social issue" has a broad meaning in the United States, as it refers not only to ills to be solved but to any topic of widespread debate, involving deeply-held values and beliefs.
The Library of Congress has established an index of social causes in the United States. Examples include: academic cheating, church-state separation, hacking, evolution education, gangs, hate speech, suicide, urban sprawl, and unions.
Social issues take a particularly high-profile when a new president is elected. Elections are often impacted by several social issues, and many social issues would be discussed during the debate, such as Abortion rights, LGBT rights and gun control issues.
Crime and the justice system
In the United States, the federal prison system has been unable to keep up with the steady increase of inmates over the past few years, causing major overcrowding. In the year 2012, the overcrowding level was 41 percent above "rated capacity" and was the highest level since 2004.
The federal prison not only has overcrowding, but also has been the center of controversy in the U.S regarding the conditions in which the prisoners are treated.
Hate crimes are a social problem in the United States because they directly marginalize and target specific groups of people or specific communities based on their identities. Hate crimes can be committed as the result of hate-motivated behavior, prejudice, and intolerance due to sexual orientation, gender expression, biological sex, ethnicity, race, religion, disability, or any other identity. Hate crimes are a growing issue especially in school settings because of the young populations that exist. The majority of victims and perpetrators are teenagers and young adults, the population that exists within educational institutions. Hate crimes can result in physical or sexual assaults or harassment, verbal harassment, robbery, or even in death.
Advertising junk food to children
The food industry has been criticized for promoting childhood obesity and ill-health by specifically targeting the child demographic in the marketing of unhealthy food products. The food products marketed often are deemed unhealthy due to their high calorie, high fat, and high sugar contents.
Some common methods of junk food advertising include:
- Television commercial campaigns that feature celebrities
- Print media campaigns
- Billboard campaigns
- Event sponsorship (sporting events and others)
- Product placement in films and television programs
- Various forms of branding, including clothing
- Direction signs and posters, telling people how far a fast food restaurant is
In 2005, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (IOM) released a report requested by Congress that evaluated the influence and nature of food and beverage marketing practices on American children and adolescents. "The report concluded that food and beverage marketing influences the diets and health of children and adolescents; current marketing practices create an environment that puts young people's health at risk; companies and marketers have underutilized their resources and creativity to market a healthful diet; industry leadership and sustained, multisectoral, and integrated efforts are required; and that current public policy institutions lacked the authority to address emerging marketing practices that influence young people's diets."
According to Christian and the PHA website, the obesity epidemic in children and adolescents in the U.S. reflects changes in society: The article suggests unhealthy eating choices are due to an increase of sedentary activity (e.g., children watching too much television and playing computer games) and the influence of the media in causing children to eat unhealthy food choices.
In the view of some opponents, if governments took action to prevent the marketing of unhealthy food products, they would seriously reduce the prevalence of obesity and its serious health consequences, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. As part of the IOM food marketing report, 10 recommendations were made to both the public and private sectors. One of the recommendations was that the government partner with the private sector to "create a long-term, multifaceted, and financially sustained social marketing program to support parents, caregivers, and families to promote a healthful diet." First lady Michelle Obama and Partnership for a Healthier America have proposed new rules that would limit junk food marketing in public schools.
Obesity is a prevalent social problem in today's society, with rates steadily increasing. According to the Weight Control Information Network, since the early 1960s, the prevalence of obesity among adults more than doubled, increasing from 13.4 to 35.7 percent in U.S. adults age 20 and older. In addition, today two in three adults are considered overweight or obese, and one in six children aged 6–19 are considered obese.
Hunger is a fairly obvious social Issue. Many people around the globe, especially in countries such as Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Zambia, experience malnutrition and undernourishment.
Mass media may use propaganda as a means to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view, or to maintain the viewer's attention. Who owns a media outlet often determines things such as the types of social problems that that outlet presents, how long that outlet airs those problems, and how dramatically that outlet presents those problems. The American media is often biased towards one or the other end of the political spectrum; that is, many media outlets have been accused either of being too conservative or of being too liberal.
Alcohol and other drugs
Drugs are at times the cause of social problems. Drugs such as cocaine and opiates are addictive for some users. A minority of users of such drugs may commit crimes in order to obtain more drugs. In some individuals, drugs such as methamphetamine have been known to contribute to violent behavior, which would be considered a social problem.
Drunk driving is on the rise and is the number two cause of accidental deaths; it is a cause of around 17,000 deaths each year. All but 9 states in USA have adopted the Administrative License Revocation where if you are caught drinking and driving and found guilty you will lose your license for a full year. This is a step that is being taken in order to try to avoid the occurrence of this social problem.
Legal marijuana is debatable topic. Marijuana can be used in the medical domain, and there is no accurate fact that shows marijuana kills. However, people believe marijuana is a gateway to other drugs, injures lungs, and inhibits function. There are some states that are legalizing medical marijuana, such as New Mexico, Arizona, New York. Some states are also legalizing it for both medical and recreational purposes, such as Colorado, California, and Oregon.
In India, corruption takes the form of bribes, tax evasion, exchange controls, embezzlement, etc. A 2005 study done by Transparency International (TI) India found that more than 50% had firsthand experience of paying bribe or peddling influence to get a job done in a public office. The chief economic consequences of corruption are the loss to the exchequer, an unhealthy climate for investment and an increase in the cost of government-subsidised services.
The TI India study estimates the monetary value of petty corruption in 11 basic services provided by the government, like education, healthcare, judiciary, police, etc., to be around Rs.21,068 crores. India still ranks in the bottom quartile of developing nations in terms of the ease of doing business, and compared to China and other lower developed Asian nations, the average time taken to secure the clearances for a startup or to invoke bankruptcy is much greater. Recently a revelation of tax evasion (Panama Papers' Leak) case involving some high-profile celebrities and businessmen has added spark to the fumes of corruption charges against the elite of the country.
The World Bank, in 2011 based on 2005's PPPs International Comparison Program, estimated 23.6% of Indian population, or about 276 million people, lived below $1.25 per day on purchasing power parity. According to United Nation's Millennium Development Goal (MDG) programme 270 millions or 21.9% people out of 1.2 billion of Indians lived below poverty line of $1.25 in 2011-2012 as compare to 41.6% in 2004-05.
The regions with long term terrorist activities today are Jammu and Kashmir, Central India (Naxalism) and Seven Sister States (independence and autonomy movements). In the past, the Punjab insurgency led to militant activities in the Indian state of Punjab as well as the national capital Delhi (Delhi serial blasts, anti-Sikh riots). As of 2006, at least 232 of the country’s 608 districts were afflicted, at differing intensities, by various insurgent and terrorist movements.
Unemployment rates vary by region, gender, educational attainment and ethnic group.
A growing number of Germans are poor and depend on welfare. In 2007 one in 6 children depended on welfare. That is up from only one in 75 in 1965. Poverty rates seem to vary in different states, as in Bavaria only 3.9% suffer from poverty, while in Berlin 15.2% of the inhabitants are poor. Families that are headed by a single parent and working-class families with multiple children are most likely to be poor.
There is a discussion going on about hunger in Germany. Reverend Bernd Siggelkow, founder of the Berlin-based soup kitchen "Die Arche", claimed that a number of German children go hungry each day. He blamed the lack of jobs, low welfare payments, and parents who were drug-addicted or mentally ill. Siggelkow has been criticized by a number of people who said there was no hunger in Germany. SPD politician and board member of the German central bank Thilo Sarrazin said it was possible to live on welfare without going hungry if one did not buy fast food, but was able to cook from scratch. He was criticized by The Left politician Heidi Knake-Werner, who said it was not right that "well-off people told poor people how to shop".
Germany has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. In 2012, its national fertility rate was 1.41 children per woman, up slightly from the 2002 rate (1.31), but still well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. (By contrast, the United States had a fertility rate of 2.06 in 2012). At the same time, Germans are living longer, with a life expectancy of 80.19 years (77.93 years for men and 82.58 years for women) – 2012 estimates. This demographic shift is already straining the country's social welfare structures and will produce further economic and social problems in the future. The Mikrozensus done in 2008 revealed that the number of children a German women aged 40 to 75 had was closely linked to her educational achievement.
So called problem neighbourhoods ("Problemviertel") exist in Germany. Those neighbourhoods have a high drop-out rate from secondary school and children growing up in a neighbourhood like this have only 1/7th the probability of going to college compared to a person growing up in another neighbourhood. Abuse of alcohol and drugs is common. Many people living in those neighborhoods are what is called a-people. They are poor ("arm"), out-of-work ("arbeitslos") and immigrants ("Ausländer"). Often those neighbourhoods were founded out of best intentions. Many districts that later became problem neighbourhoods were founded in the 1960s and 1970s when the State wanted to provide better housing for poorer persons. Big tenement buildings were built. The first tenants mostly were two-parent-families, not those one kind with at least one parent working and many were happy with their neighbourhoods. But when the unemployment rate started climbing more and more people were losing their jobs. Also, families who could afford it started moving into better districts and only those who could not afford to move stayed in districts such as Hamburg-Mümmelmannsberg.:)
Political extremism, racism and antisemitism
Since World War II, Germany has experienced intermittent turmoil from various groups. In the 1970s radical leftist terrorist organisations like the Red Army Faction engaged in a string of assassinations and kidnappings against political and business figures. Germany has also continued to struggle with far-right violence or neo-Nazis which are presently on a rise, in line with the younger generation of Germans growing older. There is some debate as to whether indeed the hate crime is rising, or whether simply more arrests have been made due to increased law-enforcement efforts. The number of officially recognized violent hate crimes has risen from 759 (2003) to 776 (2005). According to a recent study a majority Jews living in Germany are worried about a rise in antisemitism. The situation of Jews in Germany however was better than of those in France where 90% of those polled said that antisemitism has risen in the last years. Some have suggested that the increase in hate crime is related to the proliferation of right-wing parties, such as the NPD (National Democratic Party) in local elections.
France also has to deal with social issues.
Precarity and poverty
There is a certain fragility of income and social position in France. There are several ways to measure this. One possibility is to look at unemployment. Inside the European Union, in May 2017, France was ranked 6th country with its unemployment rate of 9.4 percent, according to Statista. Moreover, according to Observatoire des inégalités, France has between 5 and 8.9 millions of poor people, depending on the definition of poverty (if the poverty line is at 50 percent of the median standard of living or if it's 60 percent).
Women suffer from economical and social problems in France. Indeed, they are paid, on average, 16.7 percent less than men, according to l'insee. Women in France also have to handle sexual harassment, inequalities in education, and other problems. That are some reasons why the Global Gender Gap report of 2016 has ranked France 17th with a score of 0.755, in which reaching 1 means gender equality.
Other issues include education, lack of literacy and numeracy, school truancy, violence and bullying in schools, religious intolerance, immigration, political and religious extremism, discrimination of all sorts, the role of women, aging populations, gender issues, unplanned parenthood, and teenage pregnancy.
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