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Equal opportunity is a stipulation that all people should be treated similarly, unhampered by artificial barriers or prejudices or preferences, except when particular distinctions can be explicitly justified. The aim according to this often complex and contested concept is that important jobs should go to those “most qualified” – persons most likely to perform ably in a given task – and not go to persons for arbitrary or irrelevant reasons, such as circumstances of birth, upbringing, friendship ties to whoever is in power, religion, sex, ethnicity, race, caste,or involuntary personal attributes such as disability, age, gender, or sexual orientation. Chances for advancement should be open to everybody interested such that they have “an equal chance to compete within the framework of goals and the structure of rules established.” The idea is to remove arbitrariness from the selection process and base it on some “pre-agreed basis offairness, with the assessment process being related to the type of position,” and emphasizing procedural and legal means. Individuals should succeed or fail based on their own efforts and not extraneous circumstances such as having well-connected parents. It is opposed to nepotism and plays a role in whether a social structure is seen as legitimate.
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