How the Approaches in the Social Sciences Help Address Social Problems?

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Social problems are defined as a social conditions that different sectors of society consider as damaging to its members and so these require a definite solution. Social problems are multilayered and affect not only one sector but the different sectors of society. Therefore, to fully understand and address the problem, a multidisciplinary approach must be utilized. The multidisciplinary approach involves the application and collaboration of several separate branches or disciplines of the social science to examine and solve present-day problems that plague society from each discipline’s perspective. 

Multidisciplinary researches are conducted in order to fully grasp the nature, scope, and magnitude of the social problem. Problems that deal with social and economic development require a multidisciplinary perspective because a discipline-based approach to the problem will not provide a complete analysis of the social problem. Multidisciplinary approaches are important in understanding and addressing social problems because in the real world, policy researches or proposals drafted and implemented to solve social problems are not crafted through the use of a single discipline. These problems are structural and multilayered that needed a multifaceted approach to solve.

Raymond C. Miller (1981), a professor of social science in San Francisco State University noted that a disciplinal approach to address problems are a futile endeavor. According to Miller (1981, pp. 6-7), this problem was experienced by economists when they made several recommendations to less developed countries. Their disciplinal approach to the problems of the less developed countries were “irrelevant or erroneous due to their failure to consider the social and political context or the applicability of their culture-bound models.”

In the Philippines, the different fields of the social sciences play a very important role to help understand and provide alternative solutions to the country’s present-day social problems. The use of the different approaches introduced by the social sciences is important to understand the social problems because all our current social problems are connected with the other problems. For example, poverty is a problem that can be connected with unemployment, overpopulation, corruption, and underdevelopment. One field of the social sciences will not be able to fully grasp the nature and extent of the problem nor can it provide an integrative solution unless a multidisciplinary or a multifaceted approach is used to understand the problem and its solution.

Below are examples of the different Philippine social problems and the different social science disciplines that can help examine the nature, scope, and solution to the problem.

Examples Social Problems in the Philippines and the Multidisciplinary Approaches to Address the Problem

Social Problem

Multidisciplinary Approaches to Address the Problem

Poverty

Economic, Historical, Sociological, Anthropological, and Political approaches 

Unemployment

Economic, Historical, Sociological, and Political approaches

Disasters

Economic, Historical, Sociological, Psychological. Geographical, Anthropological, and Political Approaches 

Poverty

Poverty is a state or condition where people’s basic needs for food, decent clothing, and shelter are not properly met. A person or a community is considered in a state of poverty if they do not have financial resources and essentials to satisfy their minimum standard of living. The United Nations (1998) define poverty as the:

“Denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living on marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation.”

Poverty has two main types. These are absolute poverty and relative poverty. Absolute poverty refers to the condition or state where people do not receive one or more of the basic biological needs (e.g. food, water, shelter, clothing, sanitation) over a period of time to sustain a minimum level of living and physical health. It measures poverty based on the amount of money needed by people to meet their basic needs. However, the United Nations (2016) argue that absolute poverty does not measure nor take into consideration the overall level of social inequality existing in each country. It does not consider the social and cultural needs of the people.

Relative poverty, on the other hand, refers to the condition in which people do not have the minimum amount of income necessary so that they can have a decent lifestyle. It is measured and defined in relation to the economic status of the other members of society. It is also varies from one country to another and changes over time. People are considered relatively poor if they cannot sustain the standard of living that was determined by the country’s society. Relative poverty has several causes. These include unemployment or lack of a decent work, lack of education and poor health conditions of people.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO (2016) consider poverty as a multidimensional issue that needed a multidimensional approach to be able to understand and address properly. UNESCO officials believed that poverty is not simply an economic issue but it also has a social, political, cultural and historical dimensions. Its social dimension refers to people’s access to sufficient health care service and education. The political dimension of poverty refers to the people’s right to express their thoughts, feelings without being suppressed and their right to properly assemble and establish associations. The cultural component of poverty refers to the right of people to preserve his or her own cultural identity and be given the chance to be involved in the cultural life of one’s community.

The multidisciplinary approach in the social sciences can play an important role in understanding the multidimensional problem of poverty. The multidimensionality of poverty can be explained and examined clearly by the social sciences because the disciplines of the social sciences provide various lens to study the different aspects of poverty. The social dimension of poverty can be explained and understood through the study of the sociological theories of poverty. By understanding the sociological aspect of poverty, social scientists can examine why people do not have access to sufficient health care service and education.The political dimension of poverty can be studied acid understood through the study of political science. Political scientists can explain how poverty can be manifested in a country where its people cannot express their rights to free speech and assembly. The cultural component of poverty can be explained by historians and anthropologists because these social scientists studies people’s history and culture and through history and anthropology, social scientists can determine and explain when and how the rights of people to self-determination and cultural preservation were violated through time. 

Unemployment

Unemployment refers to the condition when people who are able and willing to find employment cannot find a job. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2016) define an unemployed person as:

  1. Someone who does not have an employment;
  2. Someone who does not have a job and is actively looking for work in the past four weeks; and
  3. Someone who was temporarily laid off and is currently waiting to be called back to the prospective job offer.

Unemployment is usually the basis in determining the soundness and health of a country’s economy. It is measured using the unemployment rate or the number of unemployed persons in relation to the number of people in the labor force. There are a number of causes of unemployment. Some of the causes of unemployment include economic slowdown, use of advanced technology and jobs outsourcing.

Unemployment rate increases when the country’s economy is not good. When this happens, many businesses lose huge profits so they usually cut costs by reducing the number of their employees. Unemployment happens also when companies apply and use advanced technology like computers, machines, and robots to replace human laborers. Job outsourcing is also an important cause of unemployment. Most companies outsource jobs in other countries instead of employing workers from their own country because companies consider outsourcing as a cheaper and effective way of reducing costs. This is common among call centers and human resource-related industries and companies.

In the Philippines, unemployment continues to be a major problem for the government. The Philippines’ unemployment rate was 5.8 percent in January 2016. According to the January 2016 figures of National Statistics Office of the Philippines, there were 2,469,000 million unemployed Filipinos. From the said figure, 63.4 percent were males. Based on the age group, the age group 15 to 24 years old made up 48.2 percent of the unemployed Filipinos while the age group from 25 to 34 recorded an unemployment rate of 30.9 percent. From 1994 to the first quarter of 2016, the unemployment Rate in the Philippines averaged at 8.75 percent. The highest unemployment rate of the country was reached in the first quarter of 200 with 13.90 percent.

Understanding unemployment and its solutions must employ a multidisciplinary approach in the social sciences. The unemployment problem cannot be understood economically. It also has a historical, political and sociological dimensions as well. To understand the nature and causes of unemployment in the Philippines, social scientists must use history to examine the historical development of unemployment in the country. Through the use of primary sources, historians can explain how the problem started through time, what solutions were implemented before to address the problem, and how the programs succeeded or failed when they were implemented. Sociologists can provide an explanation of unemployment by looking at and investigating the reasons why different age groups and social classes cannot find employment or why they do not have jobs. The political approach to the study of poverty is also necessary because political scientists can examine how and why government policies are ineffective in addressing the unemployment problem of the country. 

Disasters

Disaster is defined as the devastating effect of a natural or human-made hazard like earthquakes, typhoons, volcanic eruption or war on a vulnerable group, population, or sector of society who cannot resist or cope up with the impact of the hazards. The Philippines ranked fourth in the list of countries with the highest number of disasters during the past twenty years (1995 to 2015). According the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the Philippines recorded 274 disasters from 1995 to 2015. In the study of the UNISDR, the Philippines was one of the top ten countries in the world with the highest absolute number of population affected by weather-related disasters during the last twenty years from 1995 to 2015. In the UNISDR report, 130 million Filipinos were affected by weather-related disasters. The top three countries in the list are China (2,274,000,000 people affected), India (805,000,000 people affected) and Bangladesh (131,000,000 people affected).

Top 10 Countries with the Highest Absolute Number of People Affected by Weather Related Disasters

Country

Number of Affected People by Weather-Related Disasters

China

2,274,000,000

India

805,000,000

Bangladesh

131,000,000

Philippines

130,000,000

Thailand

76,000,000

Pakistan

55,000,000

Brazil

51,000,000

Kenya

47,000,000

Ethiopia

41,000,000

Vietnam

44,000,000

Source: United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (n.d.). “The Human Cost of Weather Related Disasters.”

Understanding and mitigating the effects of disasters require a multidisciplinary approach as well. The multidisciplinary approach in the social sciences can provide a holistic understanding of disasters. It can also help in the crafting of risk reduction policies and disaster mitigating measures.

Economic Approach

Disasters always result in the loss of properties, crops, products and it also affects the economy as a whole. An economic approach to the study of disasters is important because economists can assess the impact of the disasters on the various sectors of the Philippine economy whether at the macro-level or at the micro-level.

Historical Approach

Disasters have been affecting the Philippines since the early times and so it is important to employ the historical approach to understand how disasters affected the country through time. Through the study of the history of disasters, social scientists can examine how the different disasters happened before and through this, government officials would have sufficient knowledge about the disaster’s effects and magnitude. Through this data, officials can implement policies that can reduce and mitigate the impact of disasters.

Sociological Approach

Disasters affect societies and by studying the sociology of disasters, social scientists can understand how disasters affect social organizations, families and other institutions affected by the disasters. Sociologists can also help in the crafting of risk reduction and mitigation policies against disasters because of their knowledge of the social organizations and social interactions.

Psychological Approach

Psychologists play an important role in post-disaster efforts because many of the victims suffer from post-traumatic stress. As trained psychologists, they can provide emotional support to survivors and disaster victims. They can also help build the resilience skills of victims. Psychologists can also provide inputs in the crafting of policies and programs on risk reduction and post-disaster rehabilitation because they have direct communication with disaster victims and survivors.

Anthropological Approach

Disasters also have an anthropological dimension that many do not take into consideration. Disaster victims have cultural traditions and indigenous knowledge that must be taken into account when crafting risk reduction and disaster mitigating policies. Anthropologists are vital in understanding the culture of society because it can affect the success or failure of programs and policies to help minimize or prevent the impact of disasters. Failure to acknowledge or consider the culture of victims can lead to more harmful or devastating effects of the disaster to community or group. Sometimes, the cultural beliefs of the victims can also help officials in understanding the nature of disasters.

Geographical Approach

The geographical approach to the study and mitigation of disasters is important because most natural hazards are environmental in nature. It is important to use geography in understanding disasters because geographers develop and produce maps, charts and other geographical aids that help government officials and even people to understand the impact of the disaster. In the Philippines, geographers help develop geo-hazard maps to highlight the different areas in the country that are highly prone and susceptible to different natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, and floods.

Political Approach

Disaster also needs political scientists to examine the different laws and policies crafted to prevent and mitigate disasters. Political scientists can provide suggestions and alternative policies that can help improve current programs and policies of the government against disasters. 

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