‘Non-white’ named BAME job applicants more likely to be rejected

29th Jan 2021

Elham Asaad Buaras

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) job applicants with “non-white” names are more likely to be rejected in Britain than their “white-named” counterparts, according to a comparative study published in December. The paper, published in the British Sociological Association and SAGE-run journal Sociology, found that for some BAME there was a strong link between their rate of employment and the level of job application rejections, while other minorities had managed to overcome discrimination.

The researchers, Dr Wouter Zwysen, of the European Trade Union Institute, Dr Valentina Di Stasio, Utrecht University, and Professor Anthony Heath, Oxford University, analysed two studies, one funded by the Department of Work and Pensions in 2008/2009 and published by NatCen, and the other funded by Horizon2020 and conducted in 2016 and 2017 in five European countries including the UK.

The trio examined previous research in which fictitious job applications were submitted by applicants with an identical level of qualifications and experience who had names suggesting they were either white British or from an ethnic minority. Those from ethnic minorities were less than half as likely to be invited for an interview.

In the first study of its kind, the researchers correlated these findings with the rate of employment among ethnic groups to see how important prejudice against names was as an explanation for their disadvantage.

With people of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Black African, Black Caribbean, Middle Eastern and North African ethnicity, the link was clear. They were less than half as likely to be invited for a job interview as people with surnames suggesting they were white British, and their employment rate was similarly less than half that of white British.

Although people of Chinese and Indian origin were also less than half as likely to be invited for an interview, had an employment rate much closer to white people. The researchers suggest that they can overcome prejudice among employers due to stronger social networks. “All ethnic minority groups are substantially less likely than the white British to receive a positive call-back when applying for a job,” say the researchers. “We show a sizeable positive relation between the degree of ethnic discrimination recorded in field experiments and the overall disadvantage faced by ethnic minorities on the labour market.

This strongly suggests that ethnic penalties reflect hiring discrimination, and generally groups that experience worse hiring discrimination also have higher ethnic penalties in employment.

“However, while there are no discernible differences in hiring discrimination between the groups, the ethnic penalties do differ substantially. Most notably, Chinese and Indian minorities fare better than black African, black Caribbean and Pakistani or Bangladeshi minorities concerning ethnic penalties, despite their very similar risks of hiring discrimination.

“We propose that some of the better-performing ethnic groups might have access to more resourceful social networks that can help in finding jobs through other channels than responding directly to vacancies.” The researchers also found that highly qualified applicants, while still discriminated against, were more resistant to prejudice and able to find appropriate work, while those with middle and lower qualifications faced more struggle in finding appropriate jobs.

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