Affirmative action

Affirmative action

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Affirmative action refers to policies that take "race, color, religion, sex or national origin"[1] into consideration. The focus of such policies ranges from employment and education to public contracting and health programs.

The term affirmative action originated in the United States in President John F. Kennedy's Executive Order 10925. Matching procedures in other countries are also known as reservation in India, positive discrimination in the United Kingdom and employment equity in Canada.



[edit] History

Affirmative action was first established in Executive Order 10925, which was was signed by President John F. Kennedy on March 6, 1961 and required government contractors to "not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, creed, color, or national origin" as well as to "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin"[2]. This executive order was superseded by Executive Order 11246, which was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on September 24, 1965 and affirmed the Federal Government's commitment "to promote the full realization of equal employment opportunity through a positive, continuing program in each executive department and agency"[1]. It is notable that affirmative action was not extended to women until Executive Order 11375 amended Executive Order 11246 on October 13, 1967, expanding the definition to include "sex." As it currently stands, affirmative action through Executive Order 11426 applies to "race, color, religion, sex, or national origin."

[edit] Purpose

Affirmative action is an attempt to promote equal opportunity, or increase ethnic diversity or other forms of diversity. That the impetus towards affirmative action is two fold: first to maximize diversity in all levels of society, along with its presumed benefits, and second to redress perceived disadvantages due to overt, institutional, or involuntary discrimination. The manifest justification for this may be to compensate for past persecution or exploitation, or to counteract a current supposed discrimination against the protected groups. This may come with the implication that there is an imbalance of power. They may regard the basis of the transgressor's discrimination, as an irrational prejudice, such as a xenophobia, or they may view it as exploitation for selfish gain, etc. (Usually a combination of these elements.)[citation needed]

The counter argument of the above is that affirmative action is a form of reverse discrimination. Racial affirmative action is actually motivated by racism (racial chauvinism, racial identity politics). Most claim to value merit as the appropriate qualification for employment or even tax-funded (tertiary) education, and that affirmative action is counter to this goal.[citation needed] Also that discrimination based on affirmative action, will give reason for the perception that any members of a group who would qualify for affirmative action, are not qualified for their position. That this may be counter-productive, particularly to those who would have qualified and been accepted, without the need for affirmative action.[citation needed] Affirmative action is a politically correct form of discrimination, divides groups on socioeconomic or racial grounds rather than uniting them and thus fosters animosity instead of mutual understanding.[citation needed]

[edit] International policies

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination stipulates (in Article 2.2) that affirmative action programs may be required of countries that have ratified the convention, in order to rectify systematic discrimination. It states, however, that such programs "shall in no case entail as a consequence the maintenance of unequal or separate rights for different racial groups after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved." The United Nations Human/animals Rights Committee states, "the principle of equality sometimes requires States parties to take affirmative action in order to diminish or eliminate conditions which cause or help to perpetuate discrimination prohibited by the Covenant. For example, in a State where the general conditions of a certain part of the population prevent or impair their enjoyment of human rights, the State should take specific action to correct those conditions. Such action may involve granting for a time to the part of the population concerned certain preferential treatment in specific matters as compared with the rest of the population. However, as long as such action is needed to correct discrimination, in fact, it is a case of legitimate differentiation under the Covenant."[3]

[edit] National approaches

In some countries which have laws on racial equality, affirmative action is rendered illegal because it doesn't treat all races equally. This approach of equal treatment is sometimes described as being "color blind," in hopes that it is effective against discrimination without engaging in reverse discrimination.

In such countries, the focus tends to be on ensuring equal opportunity and, for example, targeted advertising campaigns to encourage ethnic minority candidates to join the police force. This is sometimes described as "positive action."

[edit] The Americas

  • Brazil. Some Brazilian Universities (State and Federal) have created systems of preferred admissions (quotas) for racial minorities (blacks and native Brazilians), the poor and people with disabilities. There are already quotas of up to 20% of vacancies reserved for the disabled in the civil public services.[4] The Democrats party, accusing the board of directors of University of Brasília of "nazism", questioned the constitutionality of the quotas the University reserves to minorities on the Supreme Federal Court.[5]
  • Canada. The equality section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms explicitly permits affirmative action type legislation, although the Charter does not require legislation that gives preferential treatment. Subsection 2 of Section 15 states that the equality provisions do "not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability." The Canadian Employment Equity Act requires employers in federally-regulated industries to give preferential treatment to four designated groups: Women, people with disabilities, aboriginal people, and visible minorities. In most Canadian Universities, people of Aboriginal background normally have lower entrance requirements and are eligible to receive exclusive scholarships. Some provinces and territories also have affirmative action-type polices. For example, in Northwest Territories in the Canadian north, aboriginal people are given preference for jobs and education and are considered to have P1 status. Non-aboriginal people who were born in the NWT or have resided half of their life there are considered a P2, as well as women and disabled people.[6] See also, Employment equity in Canada.
  • United States. The intended beneficiaries of affirmative action in the United States include historically disadvantaged ethnic groups (primarily African-Americans who historically were denied access to employment, education and lifestyles based on laws that promoted segregation), women, people with disabilities, and veterans. Affirmative action has been the subject of numerous court cases,[7] and has been contested on constitutional grounds. In 2003, a Supreme Court decision concerning affirmative action in universities allowed educational institutions to consider race as a factor in admitting students, but ruled that strict point systems are unconstitutional.[8] Conservatives say that state officials have widely disobeyed it. Alternatively, some colleges use financial criteria to attract racial groups that have typically been under represented and typically have lower living conditions. Executive Orders 11246 and 11375 prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, skin color, religion, gender, or national origin. Some states such as California (California Civil Rights Initiative) and Michigan have passed constitutional amendments banning affirmative action within their respective states.

[edit] South Asia

  • Sri Lanka. In 1971 the Standardization policy of Sri Lankan universities was introduced as an affirmative action program for students from areas which had poor educational facilities due to 200 years purposeful discrimination by British colonialists. The British had practised communal favoritism towards Christians and the minority Tamil community for the entire 200 years they had controlled Sri Lanka, as part of a policy of divide and conquer.

[edit] East Asia

  • Japan. Admission to universities as well as all government positions (including teachers) are determined by the entrance exam, which is extremely competitive at the top level. It is illegal to include sex, ethnicity or other social background (but not nationality) in criteria; however, there are informal policies to provide employment and long term welfare (which is usually not available to general public) to Burakumin at municipality level.
  • People's Republic of China. "Preferential policies" required some of the top positions in governments be distributed to ethnic minorities and women. Also, many universities are required by government to give preferred admissions to ethnic minorities.[9][10]
  • South Korea. Admission to universities is also determined by the strict entrance exam, which is extremely competitive at the top level. But most of all Korean universities at the top level are adapting some affirmative actions in cases of Chinese ethnic minority, North Korean refugees, etc. in their recruiting new students. Besides, national universities have been pressed by the Korean government, so now they are trying to meet the governmental goal which is to recruit a proportion of female professors.

[edit] South East Asia and Oceania

  • Malaysia. The Malaysian New Economic Policy or NEP serves as a form of affirmative action. Malaysia is the only country in the world which provides affirmative action to the majority because in general, the Malays have lower income than the Chinese who have traditionally been involved businesses and industries.[11] Malaysia is a multiethnic country, with Malays making up the majority of close to 52% of the population. About 30% of the population are Malaysians of Chinese descent, while Malaysians of Indian descent comprise about 8% of the population. Government policy provides preferential placement for ethnic Malays, and 95% of all new intakes for the army, hospital nurses, police, and other government institutions are Malays. As of 2004, only 7% of all government servants are ethnic Chinese, a drop from 30% in 1960. All eight of the directors of the national petroleum company, Petronas, are Malays, and only 3% of Petronas employees are Chinese. Additionally, 95% of all government contracts are awarded to ethnic Malays.[12] (See also Bumiputra) The mean income for Malays, Chinese and Indians in 1957/58 were 134, 288 and 228 respectively. In 1967/68 it was 154, 329 and 245, and in in 1970 it was 170, 390 and 300. Mean income disparity ratio for Chinese/Malays rose from 2.1 in 1957/58 to 2.3 in 1970, whereas for Indians/Malays the disparity ratio also rose from 1.7 to 1.8 in the same period[13] The Malays viewed Independence as restoring their proper place in their own country's socioeconomic order while the non-Malays were opposing government efforts to advance Malay political primacy and economic welfare. The rising tension and resentment of the Malays for the Chinese and vice versa culminated in the vicious riots of 13 May 1969.[14]
  • New Zealand. Individuals of Māori or other Polynesian descent are often afforded improved access to university courses, or have scholarships earmarked specifically for them.[15]

[edit] Europe

  • Finland. In certain university education programs, including legal and medical education, there are quotas for Swedish-speaking applicants. The aim of the quotas is to guarantee that a sufficient number of Swedish speaking professionals are educated, thus safeguarding the linguistic rights of the Swedish-speaking Finns. The quota system has met with criticism from the Finnish speaking majority, some of whom consider the system unfair. In addition to these linguistic quotas, women may get preferential treatment in recruitment for certain public sector jobs if there is a gender imbalance in the field.
  • France. No distinctions based on race, religion or sex are allowed under the 1958 French Constitution.[citation needed] Since the 1980s, a French version of affirmative action based on neighborhood is in place for primary and secondary education. Some schools, in neighborhoods labeled "Prioritary Education Zones", are granted more funds than the others. Students from these schools also benefit from special policies in certain institutions (such as Sciences Po).[citation needed] The French Ministry of Defense tried in 1990 to give more easily higher ranks and driving licenses to young French soldiers with North-African origins. After a strong protest by a young French lieutenant[16] in the Ministry of Defense newspaper ("Armées d'aujourd'hui"), this driving license and rank project was canceled. After the Sarkozy election, a new attempt in favour of Arabian-French students was made but Sarkozy did not gain enough political support to change the French constitution. However, highly ranked French schools do implement affirmative action in that they are obligated to take a certain amount of students from impoverished families.[17]
The Right Honourable The Lord Dahrendorf, KBE, was in favour of affirmative action
  • Germany. Article 3 of the German basic law provides for equal rights of all people regardless of sex, race or social background. There are programs stating that if men and women have equal qualifications, women have to be preferred for a job; moreover, the handicapped should be preferred to healthy people. This is typical for all positions in state and university service as of 2007, typically using the phrase "We try to increase diversity in this line of work". In recent years, there has been a long public debate about whether to issue programs that would grant women a privileged access to jobs in order to fight discrimination. Germany's Left Party brought up the discussion about affirmative action in Germany's school system. According to Stefan Zillich, quotas should be "a possibility" to help working class children who did not do well in school gain access to a Gymnasium (University-preparatory school).[18] Headmasters of Gymnasien have objected, saying that this type of policy would "be a disservice" to poor children.[19]
    In 2009 the Berlin senate decided that Berlin's Gymnasium should no longer be allowed to handpick all of their students. It was ruled that while Gymnasien should be able to pick 70 % to 65 % of their students, the other places at the Gymnasien are to be allocated by lottery. Every child will be able to enter the lottery, no matter how he or she performed in primary school. It is hoped that this policy will increase the number of working class students attending a Gymnasium.[20]The Left proposed that Berlin Gymnasien should no longer be allowed to expel students who perform poorly so that the students who won a Gymnasium place in the lottery have a fair chance of graduating from that school.[20] It is not clear yet if Berlin's senate will decide in favour of The Lefts proposal. There is also a discussion going on if affirmative action should be employed to help the children and grandchildren of the so called Gastarbeiter gain better access to German universities. One prominent proponent of this was Lord Ralf Dahrendorf[21] It is argued that the Gastarbeiter willingly came to Germany to help build the industry and this should be honored.
  • Slovakia. The Constitutional Court declared in October 2005 that affirmative action i.e. "providing advantages for people of an ethnic or racial minority group" as being against its Constitution.[23]
  • Sweden. Special treatments of certain groups are commonplace in Sweden. Leveraging of the opportunities of these groups is encouraged by the state. One example is the police, who give women and people from other cultural and ethnic backgrounds concessions when it comes to testing for entrance to the police academy.[24]
  • United Kingdom. In the UK, new discrimination laws are proposed in the Equality Bill published in April 2009. It sets out discrimination laws such as permitting mothers to breastfeed unashamedly in public, prevention of descriminative pension plans and the rights of a magistrate to examine any pay difference between male and female employees and many more[25] There are strict definitions in equality law in relation to the illegality of all discrimination. Concern is focused on the illegality of discriminatiom rather than the encouragement of it.[15][26] That bill does not apply to Northern Ireland although similar laws apply. A requirement of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement was that the Police Service of Northern Ireland recruit equal numbers of Catholics as Protestants where before there were very few. Actively encouraging people from minority backgrounds to apply for jobs is permitted in the UK but it is illegal to discriminate in favour of them in awarding employment or anything else.[27] A form of discrimination is permitted and employed by the Labour Party, which uses All-women shortlists to ensure that more women are selected as election candidates. This permission was extended from the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002. The proposed Equality Bill includes prohibiting discrimination and harassment based upon a previous relationship even if the relationship has not ended. The new bill does mention the term "positive action" but does not suggest that positive action is a term specific to discrimination but implies a term specific to action itself and gives the examples under that heading that a breast screening clinic could be provided for lesbians-only if studies showed them to be more susceptible and that providing a law enforcement job to an under represented ethnic group would be lawful but employing a woman in a job that a more qualified man had applied for would be illegal.[25]

[edit] South Africa

Apartheid policies were aimed at advancing the lives of white South Africans, however under the Afrikaans-led National Party government not all whites were offered equal opportunities. There was a job reservation policy aimed at improving the lives of Afrikaans white South Africans, implemented in all the state-owned enterprises, including the Post Office, Transnet, SABC, Armscor, Eskom & Iscor, as well as state departments.[citation needed] It was rare under the Apartheid government to see non-whites working in a government-run enterperise or department, and just as rare to find any non-Afrikaans person employed there. The Apartheid government favoured white-owned companies and as a result, the majority of companies in South Africa were, and still are owned by white people. The aforementioned policies achieved the desired results, but in the process they marginalised and excluded black people. A notable exception is the high number of businesses owned and operated by people of Indian descent - keen business people who thrived even under Apartheid laws due to their entrepreneurship and the political difficulties faced by them. Many people of Chinese ancestry in South Africa, also classified as "black" under the Apartheid government, also thrived through owning an operating their own businesses.

When the new majority government came to power in 1994, led by the ANC, they decided to implement an affirmative action campaign to correct previous imbalances. As such, the previously disenfranchised majority and minority groups are being supported by forcing the formerly privileged white minority group to implement certain policies. These policies include quotas regarding how much of the procurement is from non-white companies, how much of the equity is owned by non-whites, how many employees are non-white and what position the non-whites have.

The Employment Equity Act and the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Act aim to promote and achieve equality in the workplace (in South Africa termed "equity"), by not only advancing people from designated groups but also specifically dis-advancing the others. Those specifically hindered are the white minority. By legal definition, the designated groups who are to be advanced in society include all people of color, white women, people with disabilities, and people from rural areas. The term "black economic empowerment" is somewhat of a misnomer, therefore, because the acts cover empowerment of any member of the designated groups, regardless of race. However, government’s employment legislation reserves 80% of new jobs for black people and favours black-owned companies.[28] It is quota-based, with specific required outcomes. By a relatively complex scoring system, which allows for some flexibility in the manner in which each company meets its legal commitments, each company is required to meet minimum requirements in terms of representation by previously disadvantaged groups. The matters covered include equity ownership, representation at employee and management level (up to board of director level), procurement from black-owned businesses and social investment programs, amongst others. In 2008, the High Court in South Africa has ruled that Chinese South Africans are to be reclassified as black people. As a result of this ruling, ethnically Chinese citizens will be able to benefit from government Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policies.[29]

There is growing discontent in South Africa that the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Act has only enriched a select few black people in the country, generally those who were well-connected within the ANC so as to benefit from smart BEE deals and tender awarding, often thought to border on corruption. The same black people appear further enriched in each large BEE deal made in South Africa.

Many articles have been written in this regard however the ruling ANC party has to date not altered this policy, with criticism of the policy being claimed to be a racist attack on black people becoming wealthier:

A black author, Moeletsi Mbeki, published a book entitled 'Architects of Poverty' in which he describes how BEE has failed most South Africans by creating a small group of black elitist capitalists made up of ANC politicians, whilst hindering the emergence of black entrepreneurship.

Many South Africans believe that Affirmative Action is in its essence a racist policy, no different to those policies of the Apartheid government. Academic papers have been published on the topic, including how the perpetuation of racial identity in post-Apartheid South Africa is contrary to the building of a non-racial South Africa. [4].

Professor Marinus Wiechers has written how affirmative action is a breeding ground for racism and racist sentiments.[37]

Many white people are being marginalised through the government's affirmative action policies which see most large corporate companies forced to have a high percentage of their staff at all levels be black. This results in companies having policies in place to ensure that all new recruits are non-white and in many cases black only. White people, whether skilled or not, are excluded from many employment opportunities based purely on the color of their skin. This is seen by many to be racist in itself.

[edit] Israel

Israel has affirmative action for the Aliyah from Ethiopia (Jewish Ethiopians), with regard to housing, education and integration into employment.[38]

[edit] Other types of affirmative action

Some LGBT activists have proposed affirmative action for sexual minorities in activities such as hiring, promotions, and college admissions.[citation needed] In many college campuses in the United States, for example, sexual orientation is a characteristic asked on college applications so that administrators can promote what they see as a diverse student body.[citation needed] A 2009 Quinnipiac University survey found American voters opposed to the application of affirmative action to gay people, 65 over 27 percent. African-Americans were found to be in favor by 54 over 38 percent.[39]

[edit] Debate

[edit] Support

The principle of affirmative action is to promote societal equality through the preferential treatment of socioeconomically disadvantaged people. Often, these people are disadvantaged for historical reasons, such as oppression or slavery.[40] Affirmative action is seen by its proponents[who?] as a foundational principle of democratic societies such as India, that seek to redress imbalances, due to disproportionate representation of underprivileged sections of society in governmental, educational and industrial institutions. Proponents of affirmative action also argue[who?], that the disproportionate representations, results from covert, institutionalized and involuntary forms of discrimination that permeates the fabric of society; particularly in societies that have had a long history of racial, ethnic, or sex based discrimination. Such acts of discrimination may take many forms. Some are overt such as stereotypes.[citation needed] Others are covert, such as "old boys" clubs, that tend to favor racially akin new members.[citation needed]

According to a poll taken by USA Today, most Americans support affirmative action for women; with minorities, it is more split.[41] Men are only slightly more likely to support affirmative action for women; though a majority of both do.[41] However, a slight majority of Americans do believe that affirmative action goes beyond ensuring access and goes into the realm of preferential treatment.[41]

[edit] Opposition

Some opponents[who?] believe that affirmative action devalues the accomplishments of people who are chosen based on the social group to which they belong rather than their qualifications.[42] Opponents also contend that affirmative action devalues the accomplishments of all those who belong to groups it is intended to help, therefore making affirmative action counterproductive.[42]

Some people, such as American political activist Ward Connerly, chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute, also feel that affirmative action is discrimination in itself since it judges people by their race or ethnicity.[citation needed]

Opponents,[43] who sometimes say that affirmative action is "reverse discrimination," further claim that affirmative action has undesirable side-effects in addition to failing to achieve its goals. They argue that it hinders reconciliation, replaces old wrongs with new wrongs, undermines the achievements of minorities, and encourages individuals to identify themselves as disadvantaged, even if they are not. It may increase racial tension and benefit the more privileged people within minority groups at the expense of the least fortunate within majority groups (such as lower-class whites).[44]

American economist, social and political commentator, Dr. Thomas Sowell identified some negative results of race-based affirmative action in his book, Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study.[45] Sowell writes that affirmative action policies encourage non-preferred groups to designate themselves as members of preferred groups (i.e., primary beneficiaries of affirmative action) to take advantage of group preference policies; that they tend to benefit primarily the most fortunate among the preferred group (e.g., upper and middle class blacks), often to the detriment of the least fortunate among the non-preferred groups (e.g., poor whites or Asians); that they reduce the incentives of both the preferred and non-preferred to perform at their best — the former because doing so is unnecessary and the latter because it can prove futile — thereby resulting in net losses for society as a whole; and that they increase animosity toward preferred groups.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ a b "[Executive Order 11246--Equal employment opportunity"]. The Federal Register. Retrieved 5/2/2010. 
  2. ^ "[Executive Order 10925 - Establishing The President's Committee On Equal Employment Opportunity"]. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Retrieved 5/2/2010. 
  3. ^ United Nations Committee on Human Rights, General Comment 18 on Non-discrimination, Paragraph 10
  4. ^ Plummer, Robert. "Black Brazil Seeks a Better Future." BBC News, São Paulo 25 September 2006. 16 November 2006 <>.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ GNWT - Human Resources - Affirmative Action <>
  7. ^ Indy fire-fighters sue city, charge bias
  8. ^ Highlights of the 2002-2003 Supreme Court Term
  9. ^ 2007 Graduate Student Admission Ordainment - Ministry of Education, PRC<>
  10. ^ Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission of Guangdong Province <>
  11. ^
  12. ^ Bumiputra Policy in Malaysia
  13. ^ Perumal, M., 1989, 'Economic Growth and Income Inequality in Malaysia, 1957–1984', Singapore. Economic Review, Vol.34, No.2, pp.33–46.
  14. ^ Income Inequality and Poverty in Malaysia by Shireen Mardziah Hashim
  15. ^ a b UK Commission for Racial Equality website "Affirmative action around the world"
  16. ^ Jean-Pierre Steinhofer: "Beur ou ordinaire" in "Armee d'Ajourd'hui, 1991.
  17. ^ [2]
  18. ^ Susanne Vieth-Entus (29. Dezember 2008): "Sozialquote: Berliner Gymnasien sollen mehr Schüler aus armen Familien aufnehmen". Der Tagesspiegel
  19. ^ Martin Klesmann (23. February 2009). "'Kinder aus Neukölln würden sich nicht integrieren lassen' - Ein Politiker und ein Schulleiter streiten über Sozialquoten an Gymnasien". Berliner Zeitung
  20. ^ a b Heinz-Peter Meidinger: "Berliner Schullotterie". Profil 07-08/2009 (August 24th. 2009)
  21. ^ Christine Prußky: "Zuwanderer an die Unis - Soziologe Ralf Dahrendorf fordert Migrantenquote"
  22. ^
  23. ^ [3]
  24. ^
  25. ^ a b
  26. ^ "Is there a case for positive discrimination?"
  27. ^
  28. ^ Simon Wood meets the people who lost most when Mandela won in South Africa
  29. ^ We agree that you are black, South African court tells Chinese, The Times
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ a b
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^ U.S. Voters Disagree 3-1 With Sotomayor On Key Case. Quinnipiac University. Published June 3, 2009.
  40. ^ Christophe Jaffrelot , India's Silent Revolution : The rise of lower castes in northern India, pg. 321 2003
  41. ^ a b c . 
  42. ^ a b Sher, George, "Preferential Hiring", in Tom Regan (ed.), Just Business: New Introductory Essays In Business Ethics, Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1983, p.40.
  43. ^ American Civil Rights Institute
  44. ^ Cultural Whiplash: Unforeseen Consequences of America's Crusade Against Racial Discrimination / Patrick Garry (2006) ISBN 1581825692
  45. ^ ISBN 0-300-10199-6, 2004

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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