Sociologists will define class as categories in the society which are based on income, status, or the way they are viewed by the society. A Marxist analysis on the other hand features on the level of influence an individual has on the means of production. Matthews (2007) further defines a capitalist class which he says that it is the class that owns and controls most of the productive capital in the society. He says that in Australia, this class amounted to 5 % of the entire population in the year 1998.
Theories have been developed about class that has resulted to numerous and conflicting ideas and researchers had to shift from using class as a theoretical framework for research. The dismissal of class analysis of various societal institutions as dogmatic, and ideological led McLaren & Farahmandpur to state that “matters of class power are sanitized and its powerful effects on the life chances of working-class students is denuded or made invisible,” (Pearce, Down & Moore 2008, para. 2). In Australia, about two thirds of the population is in the working class.
These are people whose only productive asset is the ability to work. They sell their labour power to their employers who can range from the state, individual capitalists among others, in order to receive a wage which will enable them make ends meet. Another popular class is the middle class which can be said to be composed of individuals who own small businesses. They rely on their own labour power to produce output. They are however being driven away and into bankruptcy by large capital firms.
There still exists the ruling class; they carry more social weight and power than the rest of the citizens. They have a direct influence on economic policies being developed in the nation. They support politicians and government, politically and financially. The state can also be categorized in this class as it is responsible for making and implementation of the law (Matthews 2007). Impact to Education There exists inequality in the access of university education, underachievement in education correlates negatively with the social class.
Children from low-income families have limited access to educational resources. Their parents rarely get enough time to help them with their day to day challenges at school as they are so much occupied in their work places. They work even over time in order to sustain their families. Some parents in the working class lack education and therefore they would be of little help to help their children in doing their homework, they would also not be in a position to afford employing tutors and this affects their children’s education (Taylor & Fraser 2003).
Expectations on the working-class students are that they should conform to the middle-class. They thus seek to achieve this status and power mostly not for their own gain but in order to improve the life chances of others in the similar background. They are more focused in giving back to the community in which they originated rather than seeking their improvement in form of class status. A strong sense of solidarity is evident in these students as they have an increased desire to use their qualifications and professional status to achieve a better life for themselves and others who are like them.
They have a passion to bridge the gap between the two classes which they believe that a lot has still to be done as the inequality gap is too large (Lins-Dyer & Nucci 2007). The discriminatory education system has unquantifiable damages that are done to individuals and the society at large. People have been left behind in the system, others have been discouraged while yet a quite good proportion has been excluded from the system. It would not be unrealistic to claim that social and economic damage is being done through educational discrimination.
When “Professor Janet McCalman analysed the places where those in the Australian who’s who 1988 went to school,” it was clear that these leaders in business professions and politics went to the older private schools (Moorhouse 2010, p. 1). McGregor (1997), views being in the working-class as being equal to being underprivileged, he asserts that people in this class earn and own less, their access to life privileges is minimal as they have poorer education and other goods from the society.
In general, the opportunity that they have for good life is such minimal that with a very small degree of error, we can claim that equal opportunity does not exist in Australia. Impact to Health It is no wonder that health outcomes really vary with the social class. The characteristics of different social classes can be depicted by a view on Morbidity and mortality rates. The lower class shows a greater array of lower mortality rates and greater health problems (Greig, Lewins & White, 2003). These differences are very clear and distinct at birth and throughout the human life cycle.
Henry (2001) identifies domains in which health disparity issues differ by the social class. They include psychological domain which contains norms habits, and behavioural intentions. The other is listed as behavioural constraints which include economic resources and situational effects. Physical influences that include physiological stress, genetic dispositions and environmental conditions Behavioural constraints involve barriers that prevent one from engaging in health promoting behaviour. These inhibitors are listed by Henry (2001) as economic resources and situation constraints.
Economic resources inhibitors are financial limitations that prevent individuals from obtaining health facilities goods, while situational constraints are factors that limit the access to these health facilities. They range from lack of adequate health facilities in the community, poor transportation or lack of proper time management in the utility of such services. Physical influences on the other hand are the conditions which impact physiological health directly. He groups them into environmental conditions, physiological stress and genetics A decline in the health is observed as one move down the classes.
The middle class Public awareness and educational programs can be developed to ensure that health equality is maintained. Social class has taken a critical point in the studies of health, the coronary heart disease for instance had been considered as a disease for the upper class. On the other hand, the lower class (working-class) have been found to have prevalent lower life expectancy, higher mortality rates and increased mental disorders. Inequality in income brings about psychosocial stress which is a factor that increases the mortality rate; it has become apparent that mental illness prevalence has been found among the working class.
A direct relationship has been identified to exist between poverty and increase in emotional disturbance. This has led to an increase of psychiatric disorders, drug and alcohol dependence on the working class (Murali & Oyebode 2004). According to The Demography of Medical Schools, 59% of applicants in medical school usually come from high social classes. This makes us suspect that a discriminatory rule is being used in the medical institutions. However, admissions procedures in these schools seem to favour certain social classes in comparison to others.
Requirements such as previous experience in a hospital are being considered for some medical school administration. This curtails the number of students enrolling to such schools as it proves cumbersome to attain such qualifications for most people in the working class. The access to opportunities has been limited for many students and this explains the reason why such patterns of students’ enrolment are being reflected (The Medical News 2004). The nature of the working class has really changed in Australia with over 65% of the work force being employed in the white-collar jobs.
In fact if by defining the working-class as those who have not attended university education, then it can be said that Australia has graduated to the middle-class. It is surprising to note that the vast majority of white-collar jobs holders are part of the working-class. They have less control of their work which is even lower than that of blue-collar workers, consequently implying lower wages (Castles 1994). It is very clear that in Australia class has direct consequences on lifestyle. It affects the access to education and status attainment.
A child raised in middle-class is more likely to end up in this middle class and the trend would be similar for a child raised in the middle-class. As we move up the social class, we are able to meet better health, education and other social facilities, which are transmitted to children. The trend thus seems to be perpetuated to future generations. A research conducted by Taylor and Fraser (2003) indicates the existence of a gap between children living in the different classes. The working class end up having stress in Parents relationships as they are unable to provide impeccable opportunities for their children.
Children have in fact confessed that class is a factor that lead to social seclusion in academic life, and a contributing factor for educational disadvantage. Life’s chances are in this case affected by the mere fact that one belongs to a certain class that is either favoured or not by circumstances that prevail in the society. In Australia the government together with other institutions should be concerned and implement policies that would narrow the gap that exist between the various social classes.
Such policies should focus on issues of adequate family income which will ensure that families have adequate resources to cater for the needs of their children and provide adequate opportunities for them, the welfare of workers should also be taken care of to ensure that each worker gets adequate time to attend to the family needs. In the school setting, policies should be developed to ensure that educational disadvantage has been reduced, and the cost of public education to be maintained as low as possible, to offer equal opportunities for children in all classes. Affordable assistance should be accorded to specific children with learning difficulties in order to enhance excellence at all levels (Taylor & Fraser 2003).
Conclusion In conclusion it is very clear that Australia is faced with inequalities and other factors that enhance or inhibit opportunities that are available to children growing in this nation. There exists a challenge which should be looked at by all the policy makers in private and public enterprises, in order to ensure that the life chances of the children are not affected unfairly by the mere fact of belonging to a certain class.
Courtney from Study Moose
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