Thursday, June 18, 2009

The importance of being Leigh or Booth...

...rather than  Vargonova

Having a name such as Francesco or Francesca can be a disadvantage when it comes to landing a job according to a new Australian study, unless you're applying for it in Melbourne.

A new landmark ANU study has found that having a foreign-sounding name, even an Indigenous-sounding name, makes it less likely you'll be called back. Unless your name sounds Italian and you're in Melbourne, in which case it can actually be an advantage.

Researchers Alison Booth, Andrew leigh and Elena Vargonova sent out 4000 fake job applications to employers advertising on the web for entry-level waiting, data entry, customer service and sales jobs changing only the racial origin of the supposed applicants' names.

Applicants with Chinese-sounding names fared the worst, having only a one-in five-chance of getting asked in for an interview 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 backs, an applicant with a Middle Eastern-named applicant 64 per cent more, and 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 hastens to point out that the 7 per cent bias in favour of Italian-sounding names is 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 applicant's names. "There is no other reasonable interpretation of our results," he said.

The fake applications had made clear that the supposed job sekers 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 United States found that applicants with black-sounding needed to submit 50 per cent more applications than whte 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.