Thursday, June 18, 2009

CRIKEY: Your unpronounceable surname could cost you that job ...

You know, the problem with them migrants is that they just won't integrate. They come to our country and expect to have everything their way. They want to have their own religious schools in our suburbs, something they have no right to do even if we've been doing it for decades. And when they won't integrate properly, they wonder why they get murdered or bashed. And what really cheeses me off is that they just come here and go on the dole. And them Lebanese are the worst of all. Biggest dole bludgers on the planet. I mean, what's to stop them from applying for jobs?

Actually, there's not much to stop them from applying, though it may not take them very far. Why? The answer might be found in a new study published by three researchers from the Economics Program of the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University (ANU).

That study was based on:
... several large-scale field experiments to measure labour market discrimination across different migrant groups in Australia.

The main experiment involved:
... sending 4,000 fictional resumes to employers in response to job advertisements.

And the result?

We found economically and statistically significant differences in callback rates, suggesting that ethnic minority candidates would need to apply for more jobs in order to receive the same number of interviews.

The findings showed a person with distinctly Chinese-sounding name had to submit 68% more applications to get the same number of interviews as a person with an Anglo-Saxon- sounding name.

In the case of a person with a Middle Eastern sounding name, the figure was 64%. The results were tabulated by gender, by city (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) and according to the nature of the job (waitstaff, data entry, customer service and sales).

The study cites the experience of one Ragda Ali from Sydney who says that she:
... applied for many positions where no experience in sales was needed -- even though I had worked for two years as a junior sales clerk. I didn't receive any calls so I decided to legally change my name to Gabriella Hannah. I applied for the same jobs and got a call 30 minutes later.

After reading all this stuff, I wondered how many times in my own working career I'd been denied an interview because of an employer making assumptions about my ethnic background. Or perhaps I should have Europeanised my name? Maybe I'll change my name to Ivan Albrechtsen- Bolt and try my luck applying for a job at, say, News Limited. Heck, at least they'll be assured I'm not one of those people with genetic defects arising from cousin-marriage.

That such structural discrimination persists across the workforce in a nation where 1 in 4 people was born outside Australia is a disgrace. In our 21st century allegedly globalised Australian economy, people with chink and rag-head sounding names still find it much harder to get a job.

First published in Crikey on 18 June 2009.

UPDATE I: Gabriel McGrath writes on Crikey:

The study Irfan Yusuf that linked to makes me ashamed to be an Australian. Yes, that's a cliché, but WOW is it true in this case. "The findings showed a person with distinctly Chinese-sounding name had to submit 68% more applications to get the same number of interviews as a person with an Anglo-Saxon-sounding name." That -- is -- disgusting. With over 4000 resumes sent out - "margin of error" doesn't come into it. Nor, it seems, was there a "margin of decency"... from many employers.

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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