Australian bosses are racist when it’s time to hire
Source: PETER MARTIN The Age.com.au
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.