TORONTO — Canadian visible minorities are more likely to face discrimination in hiring than their American counterparts, according to a new survey of nine countries that found Canada is near the top for prejudice in hiring.
But the researchers behind the study have a theory that one way to address the problem may be as simple as requiring employers to request more detailed information from applicants at the start of the process.
In a study published in Sociological Science this week, Northwestern University sociologist Lincoln Quillian and colleagues analyzed the results of 97 “field experiments” in hiring, in which fictional job applicants were created to track how they fared in the job interview process.
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In all, the researchers looked at more than 200,000 job applications, and broke down the results by race, to see whether minority candidates with similar qualifications to white ones got as many call-backs.
To no one’s surprise, they didn’t.
The data “shows nearly ubiquitous discrimination against racial and ethnic minority groups,” the researchers concluded in a paper published Monday ― but there are notable differences between results in the nine countries surveyed.
France and Sweden were found to have the highest likelihood of discrimination. A job applicant from a visible minority group in France is 43 per cent more likely to be discriminated against than a similar applicant in the United States. In Sweden, they are 30 per cent more likely to encounter prejudice in hiring.
Canada and the U.K. tied for third place, with minorities there 11 per cent more likely to face discrimination in hiring.
It found that people of African, Asian and Middle Eastern descent all experience similar levels of discrimination.
”For white immigrants, by contrast, discrimination is lower and is often not statistically significant,” the study stated, adding that “there is no evidence of ‘reverse’ discrimination against white natives” in hiring.
Quillian points to “certain laws and institutional practices” to help explain why some countries experience far higher levels of discrimination. For instance, the U.S.’s laws on racial bias in the workplace likely contributed to its relatively positive score.
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“No other countries require monitoring of the racial and ethnic makeup of ranks of employees as is required for large employers in the U.S.,” Quillian said in a statement. “For instance, large employers in the U.S. are required to report race and ethnicity of employees at different ranks to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”
Meanwhile, in France, where discrimination is most common, employers aren’t allowed to inquire about the race of applicants.
“The French do not measure race or ethnicity in any official ― or most unofficial ― capacities, which makes knowledge of racial and ethnic inequality in France very limited and makes it difficult to monitor hiring or promotion for discrimination,” Quillian said.
More detailed job applications?
And Quillian suggests that one solution to the problem may be to emulate how hiring is done in Germany, the country with the lowest incidence of discrimination. There, job applicants are typically required to provide very detailed job applications that often include high school grades.
The idea is that having a very detailed picture of an applicant leaves less room for hiring managers to “fill in the blanks” with their own pre-conceptions about that person, which may include racial prejudices.
“We suspect that this is why we find low discrimination in Germany ― that having a lot of information at first application reduces the tendency to view minority applicants as less good or unqualified,” Quillian said.