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United Nations Development Programme Human Development Report Office OCCASIONAL PAPER Background paper for HDR 2004 Affirmative Action Policies: An International Perspective

By Daniel Sabbagh


Broadly defined, affirmative action encompasses any measure that allocates goods – such as admission into universities, jobs, promotions, public contracts, business loans, and rights to buy and sell land – on the basis of membership in a designated group, for the purpose of increasing the proportion of members of that group in the relevant labor force, entrepreneurial class, or university student population, where they are currently underrepresented as a result of past or present discrimination 1. These measures go beyond antidiscrimination policy strictly conceived. Their existence may result from constitutional mandates, laws, administrative regulations – such as requirements on public contractors –, court orders or voluntary initiatives. Their goal is to counter deeply entrenched social practices that reproduce group-structured inequality even in the absence of intentional discrimination. Beyond this most general definition, affirmative action policies vary substantially across countries, regarding the identification of their intended beneficiaries, the form of the programs involved (quota/non-quota), the level (constitutional, legislative, administrative) of the legal norms from which they derive, and their domain of implementation

Year: 2011
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