Politics in Minutes (2016)

Positive discrimination

Despite the widespread adoption of anti-discrimination legislation, minority ethnic groups (and women) are still in practice at a disadvantage in many areas of life. This is particularly noticeable in employment, where the top posts are occupied almost exclusively by members of the predominant (usually white-European) ethnic group, and minorities are more than statistically likely to be in lower-paid or unpleasant jobs. Legislation is clearly not effective in preventing discrimination, so to try to rectify the inequality, some countries have used a system of positive discrimination. India, which has a very ethnically diverse population, operates a system of quotas of educational places and jobs for the various ethnic groups; elsewhere applicants for vacancies from minority ethnic groups are given preferential treatment. Although these ‘affirmative action’ schemes have been successful in ironing out inequalities, they have also been accused of unfairly tipping the balance, and run the risk of increasing rather than decreasing prejudice against minority ethnic groups.