equal opportunity

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In modern societies, equal opportunities denotes the right to equal access to life opportunities . In particular, this includes the prohibition of discrimination based on gender , age , religion , cultural affiliation, disability or social origin , which is enshrined in human rights .

While in nature opportunities are distributed according to statistically describable rules, by chance or via the power of the stronger / the former / the most adapted ( English fittest ), opportunities in human societies are regulated by people. In efforts to achieve equal opportunities, the understanding of justice as democracy is expressed . A lack of equal opportunities is seen as unjust and can endanger social peace .

1912: Suffragettes protest for equal opportunities for women

Equal opportunities and the German constitution

Article 3 (3) of the German Basic Law states: “Nobody may be disadvantaged or preferred because of their sex, their origin, their race, their language, their homeland and origin, their beliefs, their religious or political views. Nobody should be disadvantaged because of their disability. ”The addressee of this standard is public authorities, such as courts and authorities. In the private sector, provisions such as the General Equal Treatment Act regulate equal opportunities.

Ideological positions on the idea of ​​equal opportunities

Equal opportunities is a central goal of liberalism . In contrast to socialism , which strives for equality of results (equality of results), liberals demand the same framework and equal opportunities for advancement. In liberalism, therefore, one speaks of equal starting opportunities .

Equal starting opportunities exist when those competing for a good or a position are not discriminated structurally or interactively.

The question of whether there is actually an equal start is often difficult to answer. Do boys nowadays transfer to grammar school less often than girls because the primary school teachers discriminate against them or because they are not that good at school - and how does one influence the other? Do women occupy leadership positions less often than men because they are discriminated against or because women are less likely to seek them - and how does one influence the other?

Equal opportunities and accessibility

Inclusion Europe
logo for text in easy language

A distinction is often made between formal equality of opportunity and more extensive accessibility . If, for example, a job interview takes place on the tenth floor of a building without an elevator, there is formal equality of opportunity for people who use a wheelchair. However, there is no accessibility. Accessibility describes the design of the environment in such a way that it can be used by all people. Originally this related to the built environment ( barrier-free building ). Today it says:

“The environment should be designed in such a way that it takes into account the needs of all people. No group of people should be excluded from use due to a certain design. This understanding of accessibility is also called 'design for all' or 'universal design'. "

Barriers cannot only be of a structural nature. For example, a certain language can exclude people with special needs, people from ethnic minorities or from the lower classes (see also: easy language ). Overemphasis on written information can rule out functionally illiterate people .

The habitus as a barrier

The sociologist Pierre Bourdieu developed the habitus concept primarily in his major work The subtle differences , which was published in 1979, based on extensive empirical studies . He was of the opinion that the habitus can also be a barrier. According to Bourdieu, "habitus" refers to the entire appearance of a person. B. the lifestyle , the language, the clothes and the taste . If a group of people has similar preferences and is also in similar social circumstances, one observes certain similarities. According to Bourdieu, these common habitual structures are typical of a particular social class . The term "class habitus" describes these common habitual structures. The class-specific habitus can be reconstructed through the actions of people who belong to a class. This makes the actions of the class members easy to understand and explain to other members of the group. According to Bourdieu, differences in habitus make social mobility difficult. For example, management positions would be filled with people from the upper middle class , as these are most similar in habitus to other people in management positions. This ensures common topics of conversation and mutual sympathy. Thus, the chances of advancing to a management position with the same qualifications are unevenly distributed.

In addition to the class-specific habitus, according to Bourdieu, there is also a gender-specific habitus, as explained in his book The Male Rule , first published in 1998 .

Equal opportunities and language

Some people believe that non-discriminatory language is part of equal opportunities. Instead of “disabled people” one should speak of “people with special needs”.

A book has been published by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Social Security, Generations and Consumer Protection, which suggests an emancipatory use of language. The following examples can be found

  • "Handicapped accessible": better "barrier-free"
(Accessibility is important for everyone.)
  • "Deaf and dumb": better "deaf"
(People born deaf can speak and see themselves as members of a linguistic minority (compare: Audism ).)
  • "Being confined to a wheelchair": better "use a wheelchair"
(A wheelchair does not mean immobility.)

Stefan Göthling, managing director of " Mensch first " in Germany demands:

“I don't want to be called a“ mentally handicapped ”person. That hurts me. Nobody has the right to do so. "

- Stefan Göthling : People first - Network People First Germany eV: 1000 signatures against the term "intellectual disability" . In: people1.de, June 19, 2008

Further criticism of language use comes from the direction of feminist linguistics . Because women are often not named in the German language, they are also not included and ultimately structurally discriminated. It is to be rejected that 99 teachers are called "teachers". The expression "teaching staff" or "teachers" is better. Likewise, one should speak of “students” instead of “students”. Therefore, the term “Studentenwerk” should be replaced by the term “Studierendenwerk”, the term “student body” by the term “student body” and so on. The use of the Binnen-I is also recommended. It is advisable to avoid the word “man” (see also gender-sensitive language ).

Equal opportunities in the international education system

Equal opportunities in the international education system is also expressed by the term educational opportunity . More detailed articles can be found there and under educational disadvantage .

Equal opportunities in the Swiss education system

This section relates to the situation in Switzerland; in international comparisons, all factors not listed here must be taken into account.

Switzerland has long been advertising with the slogan “Equal opportunities in the Swiss education system”. Contrary to what this slogan suggests to Swiss citizens willing to educate, the requirements for receiving training grants under Swiss federal law have even been made considerably more difficult in some cantons, but not made easier in any Swiss canton. Recently, for example, some Swiss cantons have requested the parents' signature on an application for a training grant even if the person willing to train has reached the age of 25, even if the parent has been deprived of parental authority. Specifically, unmarried adults who want to learn in Switzerland are dependent on their parents' taxable income for their entire life, even if the parents do not have custody .

The underlying Swiss federal law transfers responsibility for training contributions, which are intended to ensure equal opportunities, which are widely communicated by the federal government and the cantons, to the cantons, thus giving them a free hand.

The fact is that in 2010 in Switzerland even people over the age of 25 have no legal entitlement to training financing if one parent (also divorced or even never custodial ) earns more than the income determined by the authority. This is because the competent authority does not comment on which amount will actually be credited after reaching the age of 25. Parents of children who want to educate and who live in Switzerland are not obliged to finance training that corresponds to the child's abilities.

It does not matter whether the Swiss children willing to educate are under 25 years of age or older. It only finds out whether it has the same opportunities as other peers when its parents are dead, because only then does it no longer need the signatures - or, as the authorities say, "consent" - from its parents.

Equal opportunities in the job

People are just as affected by discrimination in professional life as in everyday life, if not even more because of their close coexistence. Since discrimination has a bad effect on work ethic, internal friction or even rivalries between ethnic groups can arise, companies try to guarantee equal opportunities to a certain extent. Another reason for acting independently is the possibility that qualified specialists can be marginalized or kept away or those affected can sue the company (especially in the USA).

Nevertheless, German companies in particular had strong reservations and interventions against the anti-discrimination law . And at least in the management floors of the large German corporations there are hardly any women to be found, nor people with a "lower" social background.

Equal opportunities in the company concern equal pay for equal work , the permitting of the filling of respected positions by minorities and the elimination of hidden discrimination , such as regulations that e.g. B. make certain positions impossible for women with children by being required to be present. Business approaches to the creation of equal opportunities are summarized under the term diversity management . Although there is a general consensus on the correctness of equal opportunities, there is disagreement about its degree.

Measures to create equal opportunities

Measures to create equal opportunities can be, for example, disability mainstreaming , quoting , the use or consideration of the concept of universal design or educational support.

Equal opportunities for the parties

The principle of equal opportunities for political parties plays an important role in German constitutional law . It was developed by the Federal Constitutional Court from a synopsis of Articles 3, 21 and 38 of the Basic Law and is reflected in the regulations of the Political Parties Act and the election laws .

Equal opportunities for the parties is a prerequisite for a democratic constitutional state . Because in it a decision of the electorate is brought about in free elections, which must not be falsified unilaterally in favor of previously successful parties. Special cases of conflict have repeatedly arisen in practice in Germany in connection with the right to vote , with party financing and with access to election advertising broadcasts ( party broadcasts ) on radio and television .

Criticism of the educational policy demand for equal opportunities

Ralf Dahrendorf's view that “education is a civil right” leads, in Helmut Heid's view, to the demand to create equal implementation conditions, for example so that every child “can” acquire higher education, for example by giving them a place to study if they are “suitable” is offered without paying attention to its social origin. According to Heid, the redemption of the said legal claim remains a matter for the individual competitor, who can take advantage of the opportunity and achieve the educational goal through appropriate performance if he has ability and will and proves to be relatively superior to others in the pursuit of the rare good of an above-average educational qualification. The desired higher positions in education and society cannot be achieved by everyone from the start, because their level is precisely defined by the fact that the majority cannot participate in them.

According to Heid, Heinz Heckhausen characterizes equal opportunities as a “competitive formula”: Equal opportunities is the downside of the performance principle.

“A hundred meter run only makes sense if everyone has the same chance to win and - that is crucial! - if not all arrive at the same time. If all arrived at the same time, it would be a "dead" (meaning worthless or meaningless) race. The demand for equal opportunities is therefore not only an indicator that there is inequality, but also an indicator that there should be inequality. "

In addition, according to Heid, the expansion of opportunities to previously disadvantaged groups of the population does not simply increase the number of coveted places. Equal opportunities do not necessarily change the number of “winners” even if the opportunities are optimally taken and even if the performance is the same. This can be explained as follows: Even if twice as many people as before take part in a 100-meter run, there is only one winner, not two. Even if the running speed is doubled or all services are adjusted close to the maximum, nothing changes. The number of doctor positions in a society does not increase with the number of medical students or the number of highly qualified degrees and doctorates; it can even decrease with a growing level of education and a corresponding health-oriented lifestyle. Only in the event that education could indirectly contribute to the creation of a higher number of higher positions would this zero-sum game be broken to a limited extent.

Heid comes to the conclusion that with the demand for equal opportunities “a socio-structural problem is transformed into an education problem that is apparently individually solvable”.

According to Richard Henry Tawney , the system of equal opportunities in education limits the aspirations of those involved. Everyone sees the perception of their chances as a personal calculation or risk assessment. No benefit justifies claims for a social career. Supply and demand regulate the social value of the educational qualifications and qualifications achieved. According to Tawney, those who shy away from the risk of long training (e.g. working-class children with no assets ) would “happily” be satisfied with less. Anyone who affords a longer education anyway thanks to better social security from the family would also be more likely to accept the later risk of a voided qualification. In this respect, the granting of equal opportunities can be viewed as an invitation to uninvited guests who, due to the circumstances, would again refrain from accepting the invitation. The Bildungsparadox was loud Helmut Heid therefore not a paradox, but the real-onset form of equalization of opportunities, which insinuating their social determination of goals and effects. Heid also believes: “Equal opportunity is neither a utopia nor an illusion. The abstract realization of equal opportunities in or through the education system is nothing more than the legitimation (or concealment) of the rules and procedures according to which people are actually divided into quality classes. These rules and procedures not only recognize the premises, purposes and consequences already discussed, but also the criteria with regard to which success versus failure (often completely unquestionably) are defined. "

See also


  • Ursula Birsl Cornelius Schley: Education as a problem child - more educational opportunities, but less educational justice . VSA, Hamburg 1997.
  • Pierre Bourdieu , Jean-Claude Passeron: The Illusion of Equal Opportunities . Studies on the sociology of education using the example of France. Klett, Stuttgart 1971.
  • Jürgen Gerhards , Holger Lengfeld : Europeanised Equal Opportunities? Attitudes to opening the German labor market for EU foreigners. In: Berlin Journal for Sociology . No. 19 (4) , 2009, pp. 627-652 .
  • Christian Jülich : Equal opportunities for the parties, Duncker and Humblot . In: Writings on Public Law . tape 51 . Berlin 1967.
  • Helmut Heid : On the paradox of the educational policy demand for equal opportunities . In: Flitner (Ed.): Journal for Pedagogy . Volume 34, No. 1 . Weinheim / Basel 1988, p. 1-17 .
  • Christopher Knoll, Monika Bittner, u. a .: Lesbians and gays in the world of work . Results on discrimination against lesbians and gays in the work situation. Ed .: Institute for Psychology-Social Psychology, Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, on behalf of the Lower Saxony Ministry of Social Affairs. Institute for Psychology-Social Psychology, Munich 1966.
  • Thomas Meyer, Udo Vorholt: Educational Justice as a Political Task . In: Dortmund Political-Philosophical Discourses . tape 9 . Projektverlag, Bochum 2011, ISBN 978-3-89733-238-6 .
  • Friedrich H. Steeg: Learning and selection in the school system using the example of "arithmetic weakness" . Peter-Lang-Verlag, Ffm./Berlin/Bern/NY/Paris/Wien 1996, ISBN 3-631-30731-4 ( reviews and book download ).

Web links

Wiktionary: Equal opportunities  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, Article 3, Paragraph 3
  2. Federal Competence Center for Accessibility. 2013. Accessibility in the narrower sense
  3. Federal Competence Center for Accessibility. 2013. Accessibility in the broader, real sense
  4. Sven Nickel: Functional illiteracy - causes and solutions here and elsewhere . What is easy to read? Criteria for easy-to-read reading. S. 16 .
  5. European Association of ILSMH (Ed.): Just say it! European guidelines for the production of easily readable information for people with intellectual disabilities for authors, editors, information services, translators and other interested parties. Brussels 1998, ISBN 2-930078-12-X .
  6. Pierre Bourdieu: The subtle differences . Critique of social judgment. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1982, ISBN 978-3-518-28258-8 (French: La distinction. Critique sociale du jugement . 1979.).
  7. Pierre Bourdieu: The male rule . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-518-58435-9 (French: La Domination masculine . 1998.).
  8. ^ City of Vienna: Barrier-free city: understanding terms
  9. Luise F. Pusch: The woman is not worth mentioning . Essays, speeches and glosses. Suhrkamp, ​​1999, ISBN 3-518-39421-5 .
  10. ^ Ministry of Justice, Women, Youth and Family of the State of Schleswig-Holstein (Ed.): More women in language . Guide to gender equitable wording. 1990, p. 11 .
  11. Michael Hartmann: From the myth of the performance elite . 2003.
  12. § 5 Party Act: Equal treatment
  13. ^ Christian Jülich, Equal Opportunities for the Parties (1967).
  14. ^ Ralf Dahrendorf: Working children at German universities . Mohr Siebeck Verlag, 1965, ISBN 3-16-517471-7 . , quoted from Helmut Heid: On the paradox of the educational policy demand for equal opportunities . S. 5 ( core.ac.uk [PDF; accessed April 15, 2017]).
  15. Heinz Heckhausen: Achievement and equal opportunities . Göttingen (Hogrefe) 1974. , quoted from Helmut Heid: On the paradox of the educational policy demand for equal opportunities . S. 5 ( core.ac.uk [PDF; accessed April 15, 2017]).
  16. Helmut Heid: On the paradox of the educational policy demand for equal opportunities . S. 5 ( core.ac.uk [PDF; accessed April 15, 2017]).
  17. a b Helmut Heid: On the paradox of the educational policy demand for equal opportunities . S. 5 f . ( core.ac.uk [PDF; accessed April 15, 2017]).
  18. ^ Richard Henry Tawney: Equality . 1951. , quoted from Helmut Heid: On the paradox of the educational policy demand for equal opportunities . S. 5 f . ( core.ac.uk [PDF; accessed April 15, 2017]).
  19. ^ Christian Jülich : Equal Opportunities for the Parties, Duncker and Humblot . In: Writings on Public Law . tape 51 . Berlin 1967.
    • Helmut Heid : On the paradox of the educational policy demand for equal opportunities . In: Flitner (Ed.): Journal for Pedagogy . Volume 34, No. 1 . Weinheim / Basel 1988, p. 1-17 .