Thursday, 18 June 2009

A Racist Job Market

My friend forwarded me an interesting article today - Ethnic names hinder job seeking: report. I have also seen similar reports on Channel 7 two days in a row.

The result of the research shows that job applicants with Anglo-Saxon names received more calls than those with Indigenous, Chinese, Middle Eastern or Italian names. Whether the business owners/employment agencies/HR people are consciously racist or not is debatable. However, it is proven that collectively the job market in Australia is racist.

The rationale behind this phenomenon is complex and multifaceted. Let's assume people are not intentionally or consciously racist for a while. There could be several reasons behind it:

Typecasting - Once someone sees a 'foreign' name, he/she automatically assign a profile to it. Of course, there could be good and bad aspects of this profile depending on the reviewer's personal experiences and belief. The biggest disadvantage of such profiles for foreign names is perhaps the assumption that they do not speak English well. Hence we see many job ads have requirements like "excellent communication skills" to deter non-English speakers from even applying. True, Australia is a country of immigrants and there are many new immigrants who cannot speak English well. However, majority of them are quick and keen learners, especially those who are actively seeking jobs. And let's not forget the vast number of 2nd-, 3rd-... generations of immigrants who identify themselves as true-blue Aussies.

"Not Made Here" syndrome - People are more comfortable with what they are already familiar with. A foreign name automatically triggers off a level of fear and set off the defense mechanism subconsciously (or unconsciously if you prefer Freudism). Many people tend to prefer interacting with people with similar backgrounds and interests forgetting the advantages of diversity, especially in a work environment. There are a large number of small businesses in Australia which have only a handful of employees in the workplace. Hiring people with the same traits/profile that everyone else is comfortable with becomes an important criterion.

Media - The mass media is the most powerful brainwashing machine in the world and often, by criticising their countries of origin the media cast negative lights on the ethnic minorities who live in Australia.

Although we have been told not to judge a book by its cover, people cannot easily shake off the racial prejudice that have been intrinsically wired into our brain and heart as a result of millions of years of evolution. To break down the racial barrier, we have to actively and consciously broaden our horizon; seek more interactions with all walks of life; treat individuals as individuals; do upon others that which you will have them do onto you.

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