Preference Policies

In line with its census and other institutional policies, affirmative action is not allowed in France: Bleich notes that both the quota systems of Brazil and South Africa and the “softer” forms of minority recruitment found in the US, common for university admissions and employment, are “strictly forbidden” (Bleich, 1057: 2002). The explanation for this policy tends toward the description given in the “Institutions” section of this report–namely, the evaluation of anti-Semitism and “‘Hitler racism” post-WWII as being the chief concerns of French racial politics, and the subsequent engraining of those beliefs into French law and public perceptions (Bleich, 1068-9).

The outcome of French policies of inaction is quite striking. The French Parliament contains no Arab/North African members. Moreover, studies have shown that white and minority job applicants with similar qualifications garner highly unequal offers, with minority candidates receiving a third as many offers. Though some French businesses have taken this inequality into account, and attempted to diversify their hiring practices, society is split–much like on other racial policies–on whether to combat discrimination more forcefully, via government intervention (Liberte, Egalite: 2005).

This debate over the implementation of affirmative action policies has focused somewhat on the French civil service. Historically, the observation that the French military and state bureacracy were comprised largely of native Frenchmen, and not “visible minorities,” has generally been understood as a problem in need of addressing–but not through affirmative action. Moreover, the idea that diversity among civil servants, and within the government in general, has inherent benefits for society as a whole is, Calvés argues, an American concept, not a European one. In the early 2000’s, however, the European Commission and others adopted this foreign idea and advocated that it be implemented in Europe as well, to mixed reaction from French society (Calvés, 165-7: 2005). Yet she notes that any evolution in French public opinion on the matter will, of course, be constrained by existing and long-standing legislation (Calvés 172: 2005).

Leave a Reply