It turns out that Affirmative Action is not uniquely American at all…it is known under many different names around the world…Positive Action in England; Reservations in India and Nepal; Positive Discrimination in Sweden and Norway. Affirmative Action is a policy of favoring members of a disadvantaged group who are perceived to suffer or have suffered from discrimination within a particular culture.
The nature of the positive discrimination policies varies from country to country…some countries utilize a quota system, whereby a certain percentage of jobs or vacancies must be set aside for members of particular groups. In other countries, specific quotas do not exist; instead members of minorities are given preference in selection processes. The basic purpose of ‘Affirmative Action’ is to promote the opportunities of defined minority groups within a society to give them equal access to that of a majority of the population….easier said than done. The stated justification for affirmative action by its proponents is that it helps to compensate for past discrimination, persecution or exploitation by the ruling class of a culture and to address existing discrimination.
Laws regarding quotas and affirmative action vary widely from nation to nation. Caste based quotas are used in Reservation in India. However, they are illegal in the United States, where no employer, university or other entity may create a set number required for each race. The European Union, in 2012, approved a plan for women to constitute 40% of non-executive board directorships in large listed companies in Europe by the year 2020.
In some countries that have laws on racial equality, affirmative action is considered illegal because it does not treat all races equally. In South Africa, for example, the Apartheid Government, favored white owned companies while they were in power. The African National Congress led government chose to implement affirmative action legislation to correct previous imbalances. As such, all employers were compelled by law to employ previously disenfranchised groups (blacks, Indians, coloreds) The designated groups who were to advance include all people of color, women (including white women) and people with disabilities (including whites). This law covered employers with 50 or more employees. The programs still focus on employment equality rather than taking wealth away from the skilled white laborers.
Affirmative Action is practiced in many nations, including but not limited to, China, Israel, India, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Malaysia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, France, Brazil, Canada and the United Kingdom. Most of the Affirmative Action programs in these respective countries cover past wrongs in regard to indigenous peoples or existing problems with University admissions.
In the United States, Affirmative Action refers to equal opportunity employment measures that Federal contractors and subcontractors are legally required to adopt. These measures are intended to prevent discrimination against employees or applicants for employment on the basis of ‘color, religion, sex or national origin’……believe it or not, we had two (2) African American Senators and 20 African American Congressman between 1870 and 1900, however, once the Federal Government backed off of Reconstruction in the late 1800’s, gains made by the African Americans was replaced with a Supreme Court upheld ruling (1896 Plessy vs Ferguson) which promoted the ‘separate but equal’ philosophy….permitting State Governments to ‘segregate’ the population while insuring that as long as the opportunities offered the races were characterized as ‘equal’ it was ‘OK’….
We have Franklin D. Roosevelt to thank for the first mention of the term ‘Affirmative Action’ in the United States. It was first utilized in the National Labor Relations Act, better known as the Wagner Act. The Wagner Act was put into effect as a result of employers firing workers who ‘unionized’; the Wagner Act allowed workers to unionize without fear of being discriminated against. It protected workers and unions; it did not protect minorities, who at the time were barred from union ranks. The original coining of the term has little to do with Affirmative Action policy as it is seen today, but helps set the stage for all future policies meant to compensate an individual’s unjust treatment. FDR’s biggest contribution to Affirmative Action was his Executive Order 8802, which prohibited discrimination in the defense industry or government….this Executive Order promoted the idea that if taxpayer funds were accepted through a government contract, then all taxpayers should have an equal opportunity to work through the contractor. What a novel idea???
Each successive President has dealt with ‘Affirmative Action’ in a specific way….I’ll continue this topic in the blog for Friday, November 21st….
If you have any questions regarding this information or would like more detail please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me, Rosanne Turczyn-Bennett, at 484-798-1236….or if you are a small to medium sized business with Affirmative Action requirements at present or sometime soon, please get in touch with me and I will give advice as to which direction you should go in your possible reporting requirements.