Job seekers with Asian names face discrimination
Canadians with English names are called back more often for job interviews, UBC study finds
Published: Thursday, May 21, 2009
Canadians with Asian names face a daunting level of hidden discrimination when searching for a job, University of B.C. economics professor Paul Oreopoulos has found.
“In some cases, applicants are being turned down for an interview because of their name, even if they are the better hire,” he said.
Oreopoulos sent out 6,699 fake resumes to Toronto-area employers in 2008, changing up the applicant's name, educational background and country of work experience.
Even when applicants had identical Canadian work experiences and educational backgrounds, every 100 resumes with English names resulted in roughly 16 calls from employers. For every 100 resumes with Asian names, only 11 generated calls from employers. That means a resume with an English name was 40-per-cent more likely to generate a call back.
“In cases where the employer requires the hire to be very good at English, then consciously or unconsciously, they may have a concern when looking at their resume,” said Oreopoulos. “The other possibility is preference-based discrimination: the employer, consciously or unconsciously, prefers to have applicants of the same ethnicity working for them.”
Oreopoulos said both explanations are likely factors.
“There is definitely an amount of unfairness, no matter what's underlying this result,” he said.
“I'm not surprised one bit,” said Terry Johal, president of the Indo-Canadian Business Association of B.C.
“I guarantee you discrimination is there. We all know it's there, but how do you recognize it?”
Johal said some Indo-Canadians — himself included — adopt an English name to make communication easier. But he cautioned that that will not solve the problem.
“If you change your name and send a fake resume, at the end of the day you've got to go for an interview,” he said.
Ronald Ma is the director of employment services with S.U.C.C.E.S.S., a B.C. foundation that provides support to immigrants. He said he does not hear many allegations of discrimination from job seekers.
“I think it's accidental. I don't think there is widespread racial discrimination or racism against foreign immigrants,” he said. “I'd rather look at it as a misconception some employers have about some people from outside Canada.”
The study also found that immigrants who had some Canadian work experience were more likely to get calls back than those without any Canadian work experience.
“We can see employers are more concerned about workers' experience in Canada rather than their education in Canada,” Ma said. “We need to help job seekers to see how they can acquire more Canadian experience.”
Ma and Johal said educating employers about the value of foreign workers is important.
“If we can push more education to employers … that these people work hard, Canadians have a pretty fair society. Through education, we can achieve many things,” Johal said.
Oreopoulos suggested education may work if the discrimination is accidental.
“If it's unintentional, employers can do better jobs in their hiring by taking steps to avoid discrimination. If it's intentional, we need to understand why this is going on,” he said.
UBC economics professor Philip Oreopoulos sent out 6,699 resumes to see what percentage would receive callbacks from employers.