Positive discrimination – What it is, definition and concept

Positive discrimination is a series of measures that seek to improve the lives of people who suffer from inequality, exclusion or other forms of precariousness. It usually goes in favor of groups or minorities.

Positive discrimination is a type of discrimination that, in some contexts, may be desirable. It is a practice that has both defenders and detractors.

It assumes that, in some cases, a privileged situation is granted to people who are in a situation of inequality. As a consequence, theoretically the rest of society is harmed.

So that this damage is not very bulky, affirmative action policies usually have a slight impact.

Causes of positive discrimination

Positive discrimination measures arise in response to a situation. Like all politics, it seeks to solve a social problem. These causes are generally two: discrimination and inequality.

Traditionally there have been groups and minorities that have been discriminated against by the rest of society. Such as ethnic minorities, women, homosexuals, religious groups, the disabled, etc.

This has meant that they did not have equal access to jobs and representation. In some cases, this discrimination was fully explicit and conscientious. But in others we can say that it was cultural, it was not really aware that society discriminated against certain people. Some cases of discrimination have been, for example, women until very few years ago, or the black population in the United States.

The other major cause that has led to the development of these policies has been inequality. Generated, in part, by the discrimination described above. In order to correct the inequalities generated by the free interaction of individuals, the institutions believe it is convenient to develop these measures. Inequality in which there are people with a low socioeconomic level, some women, the disabled, minorities, etc. The target groups for these measures are the same, since discrimination generates inequality.

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Positive discrimination measures

We are going to name and briefly define some of the measures that public authorities have taken in order to alleviate these inequalities:

  • Quota system: It consists of reserving some places for certain people in public sector jobs or access to studies such as university studies. These places are normally reserved for disabled people. Although in Argentina a law has been approved that reserves 1% of public employment positions to the transsexual group.
  • Physical tests: Physical tests for entry to bodies such as the police or firefighters tend to be different for men and women. Due to the physical difference between the two, it is usually decided to reduce the requirement of the test for women or, directly, change the exercise to overcome. These measures seek to equate both and attract more women to this type of body.
  • Bonuses in hiring: Hiring people belonging to some groups supposes the bonus of the part that the employer pays for Social Security. It depends on the legislation of each country, in Spain it applies to victims of domestic violence, gender violence, terrorism and human trafficking. Also to people with disabilities.
  • Scholarships: Scholarships to study, although it may not seem like it, are also a type of positive discrimination. It consists of giving economic resources to some people and not to others. To acquire them, you must meet some academic requirements, but especially income.
  • Courses for the unemployed: In order to help unemployed people, free courses are offered in order to help them enter the labor market. This being the case, not everyone can access them.
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Advantages and disadvantages of affirmative action

The advantages that we find in the application of these measures are generally the following:

  • They decrease inequality.
  • They fight discrimination.
  • Encourage people with difficulties.
  • Create a more equal society.

Like all policies, this one also has a series of disadvantages:

  • Meritocracy reduction.
  • It can further increase discrimination.
  • It can lower the average level of quality in some jobs and studies.
  • The value of achievements made by minorities is reduced.

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