What is Positive Discrimination?

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Laws and policies giving employment preference to disadvantaged groups of people who may have experienced discrimination in the past define positive discrimination. These practices historically applied to women and ethic groups to create equality in the workplace. Often called affirmative action or reverse discrimination, positive discrimination has been practiced by some countries as a matter of principle.

Positive discrimination addresses employment discrimination because of race, sex, age, religion, or disability. It guarantees fair representation in the workforce to classes of people who might have been underrepresented in the past. In some areas, quota systems require employers to hire a predetermined percentage of minority or female workers.

Polices governing positive discrimination differ from laws that make it illegal to discriminate against certain classes of people. Anti-discrimination laws protect older workers from unfair treatment at work. They also discourage unfair practices aimed at women, and biases against a particular ethnic or religious group. Some areas also apply these protections to the disabled and homosexuals. Anti-discrimination policies cover hiring practices, promotion opportunities, and termination of employees based on age, race, religion, sex, or sexual preference.

Positive discrimination laws vary widely by region. In India, for example, laws imposed quotas for citizens in lower castes and for some religious groups defined as minorities. These laws aimed to correct years of possible injustice based on social or economic status. The law in India did not extend positive discrimination to women, but forbade acts of discrimination against them.


An equality act passed in the United Kingdom in 2011 refers to positive action, since positive discrimination is illegal there. U.K. employers may not hire women simply to balance the number of male and female workers, but they may hire a woman over a man if she is equally qualified and females are not well represented in the company. The same formula applies to ethnic minorities if both job applicants possess equal qualifications.

Canada enforces an affirmative action program under its human rights laws. It applies to women, aboriginal people, the disabled, and minorities. Employers regulated by government, and companies receiving federal contracts exceeding a certain amount, must meet hiring quotas under the law, which does not apply to most private employers. Canadian officials hope to reduce or eliminate any potential disadvantage for particular groups of citizens, the law states.


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Post 3

I happen to think that positive discrimination has mostly been a failure. As of 2014, women still have less administrative positions than men. And women still get paid less to do the same jobs that men do. And in fact, just this year, the Senate voted to make sure that this stays just so. So much for equality.

Post 2

Although I am of a minority group, I have never benefited from positive discrimination laws in the US. The reason is because on all application forms, people of North African or Middle Eastern descent are lumped into the "White" category. I'm Middle Eastern and I am never given preference even though this is a minority group in the US. I just don't don't understand how it works.

Post 1

The example of India is very interesting. It's well know that a cast system has mostly determined social opportunity in India for hundreds of years. After India become a democracy, steps were taken to prevent discrimination. So positive discrimination laws came into place, giving those of lower castes (technically there are no longer castes, but that's up for debate) more opportunities through set quotas. For example, a certain quota of a school or an institution must be filled by those from lower castes given that they are qualified.

Consequently though, some of the other classes, especially the middle class have become upset about this. The middle class seems to feel that both the rich and the poor get more opportunities in India whereas the middle class has the most difficult time getting into schools and getting jobs. It's interesting how trying to reverse previous discrimination can be understood as a new form of discrimination by others.

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