Positive action gives negative traction

Positive action entitles employers to provide “facilities of training” and to use tactics for “encouraging” under-represented ethnic minorities to “take advantage of opportunities”. There certainly isn’t anything superficially wrong with this at all. Perceptions need to be changed and the the playing field needs to be levelled out. Yet there needs to be a change in how this is pragmatically realised.

The Civil Service’s Diversity Internship Programme and WPP’s Micro Fellowship are just two examples of organizations creating minority-group-only opportunities to help counteract employment imbalances. However, according to employment statistics available on the Civil Service website, 8.3% of those employed in 2007 were of ethnic minority backgrounds. This is a figure that corresponds with the fact that in 2001, 7.9% of Britain had ethnic minority backgrounds. With the Civil Service there doesn’t seem to be too much a problem in the first place.

Perhaps a more important question is whether the forms positive action has taken are reasonable or not. I think not. For a start, opportunities for those within minority groups come at the expense of penalising those outside. The ends simply don’t justify the means. Two-tiered employment structures anchored on an individual’s ethnicity is both hypocritical for the project of equality, and unsuitable in a job market that necessitates merit.

Even from the perspective of those likely to benefit, positive action is a poor way of going about things. Artificially creating opportunities undermines the desert and entitlement. Those who don’t see the double standards of the programmes they take part in are only kidding themselves, those who do question their own merit.

Forms of positive action _can_ and _should_ be reigned in.

_Can_, by concentrating on ‘soft’ forms of positive action, such as more heavily targeting graduates through specific university societies, instead of engineering entirely distinct opportunities solely for specific ethnic groups. Engage, don’t engineer.

_Should_, because doing so is essential for the lasting success of multiculturalism in our country. Hard forms of positive action are nothing but attempts at easy equality. They are all mere polyfiller, created on the back of lack of understanding about the true nature of the problem. Reorientating positive action towards the empowerment and betterment of minority groups at an early age is surely preferential, both for equity and effect, in the face of such programmes that undermine merit.

No-one should accept the easy tactics of hard positive action, not even those who can benefit. These policies and programs fail in going far enough, but more insidiously lie at the very antithesis of what a fair and cohesive multicultural society demands.

Merit should be the only just determinant of jobs. Taking away from the hands of those that deserve and giving to others will never work.


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