A nudge towards equality

March 16, 2008 at 2:30 pm | Posted in British Politics, New Labour | Leave a comment
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Well, this is going to send the right-wing apoplectic. From The Guardian:

White men could be legally blocked from jobs or promotions under controversial government plans to help women and black employees achieve equality.

Employers would be allowed to give jobs to qualified minority candidates in preference to other candidates under a change in discrimination law being drawn up by the Equalities Minister, Harriet Harman. The ‘positive action’ tactic, already used in the United States, has been a legal minefield in the UK and Harman’s plans are likely to upset MPs who believe that merit alone should determine who is hired.

I suspect the term ‘positive action’ won’t live long before it’s dumped in the same shallow grave as the equally-despised ‘positive discrimination’ and ‘affirmative action’. Good. Sometimes ideas can’t be advocated by abbreviating them or having them shortened into two-word slogans; it’s only by using all the words at your disposal that you can get anywhere close to persuading people that such a policy is aimed solely at promoting qualified minority candidates, not excluding or discriminating against whites. The important emphasis here is on qualified candidates:

The positive discrimination plan would apply only in cases where two equally qualified candidates were after the same post, allowing the employer to tip the balance in favour of the minority candidate on grounds of race or gender.

You can’t achieve meritocracy through legislation alone; it requires children to have the best possible start in life, for all schools to be of the same standard and for attitudes of sexism and racism to be banished from the hearts and minds of employers and recruiters. But you can give it a nudge in the right direction, and by actively promoting qualified minority candidates – in addition to introducing tougher measures on equal pay – you might get there slightly quicker.

Plus, it’s always fun watching the right blow a gasket.

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