In The Ubiquity of Positive Measures for Addressing Systemic Discrimination and Inequality: A Comparative Global Perspective, part of the Brill series on Comparative Discrimination Law, David Oppenheimer compares positive measures for addressing inequality and systemic discrimination, including discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, disability, and religion. Across the globe, such measures are ubiquitous, commonly applied in employment, admission to selective colleges and universities, selection for legislative seats, and membership on corporate boards. They are variously described as “positive measures,” “affirmative action,” “positive action,” “compensatory action,” or “special measures.”
These policies began in the late-eighteenth to mid-nineteenth centuries, as a part of the social/political movements to end slavery, grant universal suffrage, end colonialism, grant equal rights to women and men regardless of social status or property, eliminate the caste system, adopt measures of proportional representation, embrace the benefits of diversity, and endorse universal equality.
Nearly every large nation in the world has adopted at least some special measure plans, with continuing experiments using quotas, reservations, set-asides, reparations, preferences, tie-breakers, targeted recruiting efforts, diversity measures, equity and inclusion policies, anti or unconscious bias training, and public disclosure requirements.