...the researchers conducted a field experiment by sending fictitious résumés of Malay and Chinese fresh graduates to real job advertisements. They then analyzed differentials in callback for interview attributable to racial identity. According to them there were statistically significant differences in callback rates, “indicating racial discrimination” since “Chinese are substantially more likely than Malays to be called for interview, and the difference is more acute in engineering jobs compared to accounting/finance.”
The bigger question: Why are Malays less likely to be interviewed?
It is not rocket science to know that private sector employers – not only in Malaysia but all over the world – are not totally racially blind in whom they chose to interview or hire. Although their findings confirm this, they also found that “in engineering jobs, estimated discrimination against Malay applicants is highest among foreign-controlled companies, followed by Malay-controlled companies, then Chinese-controlled companies”.
In less academic jargon or plain terms, what the two academics are saying is that they do not know why Malays are less likely to be interviewed although but they see this as indicating racial discrimination. What the two researchers have done is to allege the factor of racial discrimination without even interviewing the employers in their sample and examining deeper the reasons! Now what kind of research is this?
Of course race is a consideration in the employment market place and economy. Whether one is selling products or hiring staff, this factor is part of the calculus of business. In some cases it emerges as a major factor, in others less so, and in some cases not at all.
What are the reasons to explain this partiality or bias in interviewing for hiring? Is it because of ignorance? Is this reflective of attitudes and beliefs amounting to racial stereotyping? Is this a result of past experiences with incompetent staff from a particular race which have resulted in these so-called racially discriminatory practices? Does language competency play a role in this?
What explains the finding that foreign-controlled firms are the most prejudiced when in fact it is often assumed that they are the most race blind or least discriminatory. And why do Malay-controlled companies discriminate against applicants from their own race even more than Chinese firms?
All of these questions as well as other larger factors are completely ignored by the research. In my experience as an employer I have found that the Barisan Nasional’s pro-Malay bias in education and employment has resulted in sharply lowered standards. This has brought about a glut of Malay graduates, many of who are virtually unemployable as they lack English and Chinese language and social marketing skills.
Suggestions for follow-up work
...Finally, I propose that they complement this study with one examining hiring and employment patterns in the Government, Petronas and GLCs where taxpayers’ money is being used to hire staff and where racial discriminatory practices should be much less tolerated.
Full Article in CPI:
Hiring discrimination in Peninsular Malaysia study: A half-finished product