The Australian Human Rights Commission has said there is a growing trend of immigrants adopting Western names in the hope it will get them hired.
“There are still elements of race discrimination in employment. It is certainly present and problematic,” Disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes told HC.
His comments come in light of research released by the Australian National University which confirmed significant differences in call back rates. The research suggested that “ethnic minority candidates would need to apply for more jobs in order to receive the same number of interviews”.
The report, ‘Does Racial and Ethnic Discrimination vary across Minority Groups?’ showed that discrimination occurred differently across a range of groups. Those with Italian names, and indeed those candidates who form more established migrant groups, suffered less discrimination than Chinese and Middle Easterners. “Unfortunately, there are definitely people in Australia who make employment decisions on a racist bias. We like to call ourselves a tolerant society, but this happens a lot more often than we think,” Innes said.
Further, the commissioner said he was not surprised by examples of immigrants changing their names.
Gabriella Hannah, formally Ragda Ali, legally changed her name after finishing TAFE and struggling to find employment. Despite applying for junior sales positions which required no experience, and having worked for two years as a junior sales clerk, she didn’t receive any call backs. “I didn’t receive any calls so I decided to legally change my name. I applied for the same jobs and got a call 30 minutes later,” Hannah said.
The ANU investigative paper suggested that employers may be forced into perceived ‘socially acceptable’ responses, rather than acting on their actual belief.
Amid the skills crisis, one Canberra-based business consultant is stunned at how frequently applicants are overlooked because of their non-Anglo sounding names. “I would hesitate using the word racism but I think it is a complete lack of understanding of what it means to be a person with a different background. We are ignoring a real, and vital and economic opportunity on our doorstep. It really is incredible,” Peter Gordan from Economic Futures Australia told the Canberra Times.
Gordon added that despite the government's best efforts, he is frustrated by the lack of interest among ACT businesses in hiring the available talent from overseas.
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