Australian bosses are racist when it’s time to hire

This is an article from today’s The Age – a Melbourne-based Fairfax newspaper. Very interesting indeed! 😐 I joked in the past that because of my long surname I should change it to ‘Townsend’ or something similar. Haha. I don’t sense any corporate racism, having worked in Australia for the last six years.

It is true that you have to work harder to land yourself a job – maybe it is racism, or maybe it is just the sticking-with-what-you-know mentality: Should I hire somebody with an ethnic background who I may have an issue relating to, or should I just hire another anglo-saxon applicant whose mother’s uncle’s happens to be my godmother’s best friend? I am forever grateful to my first boss here in Adelaide, Louise Hateley. She mentioned that she faced some opposition when she wanted to hire me but she held her ground. We have become great friends since then. 🙂

My comment related to this article is that, if you happen to have an ethnic surname or comes from a non anglo-saxon background, be proud of your ancestry and persevere. I believe in a God who fits all the pieces of the puzzle together. If you’re meant to work at the company, you will get – if not, just move on and keep on looking!

Australian bosses are racist when it’s time to hire

Peter Martin

June 18, 2009

A FOREIGN or indigenous-sounding name gives people less chance of landing a job in Australia, a study has found. Unless your name sounds Italian and you’re in Melbourne, in which case it can be an advantage.

Australian National University researchers Alison Booth, Andrew Leigh and Elena Vargonova sent out 4000 fake job applications to employers advertising on the internet for entry-level hospitality, data entry, customer service and sales jobs, changing only the racial origin of the supposed applicants’ names.

Applicants with Chinese names fared the worst, having only a one-in-five chance of getting asked in for interviews, compared to applicants with Anglo-Saxon names whose chances exceeded one-in-three.

Typically a Chinese-named applicant would need to put in 68 per cent more applications than an Anglo-named applicant to get the same number of calls back. A Middle Eastern-named applicant needed 64 per cent more, an indigenous-named applicant 35 per cent more and an Italian-named applicant 12 per cent more.

But the results varied by city. Sydney employers were generally more discriminatory than those in Melbourne or Brisbane, except when it came to indigenous names, where they were more accepting.

But only in Melbourne was there a type of non-Anglo name that was actually loved. Melbourne employers were 7 per cent more likely to respond well to someone with an Italian name than they were to an Anglo name.

Asked to guess why, Dr Leigh hastened to point out that the 7 per cent bias in favour of Italian-sounding names was not statistically significant.

“But what it does allow you to say is that there is no statistically discernible discrimination against Italian names in Melbourne. They are as well-regarded as Anglo names.

“This could be because Melbourne has a higher share of Italians than other Australian cities, and has had for a long time. Discrimination tends to be higher when you have a recent influx of arrivals, as Sydney has from China and the Middle East.

“Or it could be because many of the jobs we pretended to apply for were waiter and waitressing positions in bistros, bars, cafes and restaurants.”

Asked whether the study had found that Australian employers were racist, Dr Leigh said it was clear they discriminated on the basis of the racial origin of applicants’ names. “There is no other reasonable interpretation of our results,” he said.

The fake applications had made clear that the supposed job-seekers had completed secondary schooling in Australia, making it unlikely that the employers had assumed the non-Anglo applicants could not speak English.

A similar study carried out in the US found that applicants with African-American-sounding names needed to submit 50 per cent more applications than white applicants to get the same number of interviews, suggesting that Australian employers were more prejudiced, except when it came to Italians and Australians with indigenous names.


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I've finally relented to the lures of blogging - and for those who care, well, I'm a self-confessed geek who's a wanderer at heart, who thinks and analyses too much, and who's trying hard to hold on to his 7-year old inner persona.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Arry,
    I used to have the office next door to our HR Manager. I remember him going to Melbourne to interview some chemists and coming back and saying they were immigrants and their language skills were just not up to it. Some time later I met two of the guys at a competitor/supplier. They were from India and I could understand them fine, once I tuned into the accent. Their English was probably more grammatically correct than his. Our HR manager had hardly been outside the state let alone Australia and just had never had to work at understanding an accent (apart from mine, which did flummox him at times). He would be horrified to be classed as racist and I do not think he was, just parochial and lazy.

  2. I agree with your assessment – it’s much more complex than just branding it as being racist. Maybe it’s just a way to sell more newspapers!

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