Competing Conceptions of ‘Fairness’ and the Formulation and Implementation of Equal Opportunities Policies

  • David Mason
Part of the Government Beyond the Centre book series


The disadvantaged position of black people in the British labour market is well established and does not need to be spelt out in detail here (Bhat, 1988; Brown, 1984; Employment Gazette, 1988; Wrench, 1989). Our concern in this chapter is to examine the attempts by local authorities to tackle racial disadvantage in employment and their role and impact. However, there are some features of the position of black workers in employment and of recent changes in the labour market which are particularly relevant to the discussion in this chapter.


Local Authority Equal Opportunity Positive Action Black People Radical Policy 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    The ideas which form the basis of this chapter have been developed in collaboration with Nick Jewson. The same is true of the research which underlies and informs them. Nick, therefore, shares the credit for whatever merits this chapter may have. I alone, however, am responsible for its errors and deficiencies.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Another good example of how such conflicts in policy may occur concerns the operation of seniority as a criterion of promotion. Dennis Brooks (1975) has shown how seniority worked to the advantage of ethnic minority workers in the underground railway operations of London Transport allowing a good deal of upward occupational mobility, at least within the manual grades. However, it is usually recognised that seniority systems work to the disadvantage of women workers given their typical experience of discontinuous careers. In Brooks’s example, moreover, the advantageous effects of seniority depended on a relatively low rate of labour turnover among ethnic minority workers within the overall context of labour shortage.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    A case in point is provided by the notion of a genuine occupational qualification. Very often, the idea that particular services can only be provided effectively by members of the group for which they are destined is founded on the application of acceptability criteria. Members of any group might possess the right technical qualifications but it is thought that only co-members are able to empathise with the special problems of the group or are likely to be acceptable, for cultural or religious reasons, as service providers, advisers or confidants. Such arguments have often been invoked to explain or justify particular appointments under Section 11. Whether or not such arguments are justified can, of course, only be decided in the light of the circumstances of each case. The point at issue here, however, is that acceptability criteria are not everywhere unjustified nor do they always, inevitably, work against the cause of greater racial equality.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Mason 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Mason
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of LeicesterUK

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