Research has found that employers in Wellington's accounting sector are discriminating against candidates from non-Western backgrounds.
The study was produced as a doctoral thesis by Open University accounting lecturer George Huang.
In order to collect information, Huang interviewed almost 40 accounting graduates who were of Chinese, Indian, African and other ethnic descents.
Interviews were conducted shortly after the graduates had completed their studies at Victoria University, and found that “almost all” of them felt they had faced discrimination in the recruitment process.
One graduate reportedly said that an employer had accidentally sent her an email that appeared to be a “bulk rejection” and was also addressed to other applicants with Asian or Chinese surnames.
Huang told Stuff that most of the graduates he interviewed had now found work, and that they had used a number of techniques to minimise discrimination.
Methods used by the graduates included adopting names that sounded English, choosing not to detail experience and qualifications gained overseas on their CVs, and approaching employers directly so that they could display their language skills rather than applying for jobs online.
According to Huang, other studies have suggested that Chinese graduates faced discrimination in the Australian job market, and Indian graduates faced the same issue in Canada. But in New Zealand, non-European ethnic minorities felt disadvantaged regardless of their specific background.
Rachel Baskerville, a professor at Victoria University, said that the research had “given voice” to many budding professionals who were being ignored.
However, Kirsten Patterson, the New Zealand head of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, said that the professional body was “not aware of any direct discrimination as this study suggests”.
She acknowledged that the paper’s findings were “potentially serious”, but said that the small number of interviewees cast doubt on the study’s accuracy.
“We are aware that we need to make our members aware and educate them on diversity and the changing face of the workplace in Australia and New Zealand,” she told Stuff. “We have a number of events and tools for our members that we will release in the coming months to give them a greater understanding of diversity.”
Huang – who is originally from China – said that he himself faced discrimination when he first entered the job market as a graduate in 1999.
“There is something wrong with this market,” he said. “People are not always selected based on performance or abilities but on something else which is hard to say.”
But he added that the discrimination was likely to be unconsciously administered rather than proactively enforced.
Huang also acknowledged that migrant workers could be doing more to immerse themselves in New Zealand’s culture if they are seeking employment.