Inequality exists, even in societies without formal stratification (Parsons, 1970). Whilst complete societal equality may be unattainable, Equal Opportunities (EO) policies aim to ‘reduce the gap'. Inequality takes different forms and there is much theoretical debate regarding which grouping variables, such as gender or age, are important. There exist three key notions of ‘equality of opportunity’: formal, liberal and radical. The former two are minimalist concepts, concerned principally with equality of opportunity - the ‘beginning’ of the process. Conversely, the radical perspective, a maximalist concept, is more concerned with outcome. This paper outlines these three approaches, evaluates their successes and considers whether
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Simply preventing discrimination, even if this were possible, is not enough to equalise opportunities, as it only preserves and maintains the status quo. Positive action, the more common form of liberal equality, takes a variety of forms. These include establishing goals and targets, out-reach recruitment efforts, advertising in specific forms of media aimed at certain groups, even additional training for those already in post. This is done in recognition of systemic disadvantage and in an attempt to equalize background conditions. Whilst, as stated, this has been legal since the 1970s (at least in relation to race, ethnicity, nationality and gender), such activities were rare until the late 1990s (Iganski and Mason, 2003). Positive action now forms a central component of the EO agenda for the public sector and often the private sector. However, any real scope to influence the labour market by these means is limited by fiscal
men and five percent emanated from ethnic minority backgrounds. Moreover, only fifty-nine percent were selected from the A-list; the remainder were local candidates.
As well as similarities, there are philosophical differences between formal and liberal approaches. Although theorists have attempted to conflate them (Liff, 1996), Iganski and Mason (2003)