In Berlin, 35% of the population have foreign roots. But this diversity is not reflected in Berlin’s municipal government, where only 12% of civil servants and employees have a migration background. The Berlin government has decided it wants to redress this imbalance. One solution it considered was adopting binding quotas for local government to recruit more people with migration backgrounds into public service.
The proposal was polarising, attracting both support and plenty of criticism, and ultimately the Berlin government opted for voluntary measures instead. Affirmative action has been around for decades in the United States, yet it remains controversial there too. Should we introduce such measures in Europe?
Critics of the so-called “immigrant quota” argue it is neither achievable nor fair. Instead, they argue that every position should be filled by the best candidate, regardless of gender or background. Measures such as immigrant quotas or gender quotas (also known as “affirmative action” or “positive discrimination”) appear to prevent that. The quality of work could be impaired if positions are no longer filled on the basis of qualifications alone. Furthermore, wouldn’t a such quotas be unfair to people without a migrant background?
Supporters of the immigrant quota believe that it is one way to address structural inequalities. Even with quotas, our societies would still be a long way from treating candidates without a migrant background “unfairly”. For example, studies show that people with a migration background are at a disadvantage during the application processes in Germany compared to candidates with exactly the same qualifications. Could immigrant quotas for state jobs help make the recruitment process fairer?
Should there be diversity quotas for state jobs? Or are voluntary measures a better solution? Does affirmative action work? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!