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Job discrimination is rife all over the world – (Part 1)

March 4, 2008

Job discrimination during the hiring process is rampant all over the world. Here’s a chart which reveals just how much discrimination there is the world over when applying for a job…for reasons ranging from age and gender to race and religion.


Kelly Services, Inc. surveyed 70,000 job seekers in 28 countries (2006), and as they say discrimination includes “discrimination on the grounds of
colour, sex, religion, race, political opinion, age, medical record, sexual preference,
trade union activity, marital status, nationality, disability (physical, intellectual or
psychiatric), or impairment (including HIV/AIDS status).” One needs to keep in mind just a few thousand people were talked to in each country, and that these are people’s perceptions only…there will always a certain percentage of people who are disgruntled for no good reason.

Sweden heads the list! This may make it seem as if the stringent laws in developed countries are of no use..but I’m sure that people in a literate nation like Sweden would be far less tolerant of any sort discrimination and more likely to crib.

The causes of the job discrimination vary from country to country and depend on a range of complex socio-economic factors…but the reality is that a huge number of people all over the world do feel discriminated in some way or the other. Even assuming that only 50 percent of them are right in their assessment, even then it’s a sizeable percentage.

The Kelly study covered 2,000 employees in India and it shows that two out of three Indians believe that they have been discriminated against when applying for a job.

Age discrimination – felt by 16 percent of the respondents
Gender – 13 percent (more women complaining about this than men)
Race – 7 percent
Disability – 3 percent.

There was no information available on religion…but other studies have shown that there is such discrimination in India. I can’t help feeling though that most of these people who were discriminated against would have got the job if they ‘knew’ someone. Wonder what type of discrimination that’s called…could it perhaps be called discrimination due to no connections!? In India knowing the right person matters…and not always is the ‘known’ person chosen from two equally competent people.

But before I go on I must mention a small study (4,808 applications for 548 jobs advertised in English newspapers over 66 weeks starting October 2005 were analysed) which was undertaken by the University Grants Commission in conjunction with Princeton University. It reveals that two groups of people in India – Dalits and Muslims – face discrimination when it comes to getting jobs.

Amongst equally-qualified males from higher upper castes, Dalits and Muslims, India’s corporate sector called only 67 percent Dalits and 33 percent Muslims for the interviews, but all “upper caste” candidates were called.

The fact that applicants from certain groups were not even called for the interviews means negative stereotyping. If HR departments are not even going to see the candidate it reflects very poorly on these companies.

Though this was the only data I could get on this subject, I can say from personal observation that Muslims are discriminated against in corporate India.

Both caste and religion are closely tied with racial discrimination. India is not the only country in the world guilty of this practice. Here’s a brief overview of racial discrimination in the world.


Malaysia and Singapore figure high on the list…such problems invariably arise in multi-cultural societies but it’s surprising to see the high level of discrimination felt by those from Malaysia and Singapore. Recently this was in the news – Indian Malaysians protesting against discrimination.

India doesn’t score too well here either, but it scores better than the USA, New Zealand and the Netherlands. One keeps reading of racial and religious discrimination in France, but looks like France is way ahead of India.

Let me end with a positive note. India will soon have an Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) on the lines of the Human Rights Commission and this will be run by the Ministry of Minority Affairs. The specific purpose of this commission would be to “redress grievances relating to denial of opportunities on grounds of discrimination.”

Related Reading: Job Discrimination at the workplace (Part II of this post)
Caste based affirmative action doesn’t always work
Should you leave that job you hate?
Job Hopping and Blogging Trends

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2008 10:24 pm

    Suppose. Just suppose that I have set up a plastic surgery clinic. Or a new boutique restaurant/hospital/store. I am looking to attract wealthy people to do business with. I wish to make them happy and comfortable when they come to my place. Therefore I want to employ the prettiest and sexiest girls. Should a Commission stop me from doing so because I will be discriminating on the basis of gender or skin color or looks? Should I employ an amputee (sorry if this offends any of you: I am being hypothetical) or a fat, matronly lady of 55 years vintage??
    Positive discrimination, or anti-discrimination, sounds fine superficially, but in a free society, private citizens should have the right to choose. For example, a conservative, religious woman may not want to allow menstruating girls or Muslims (or pick any pet dislike for this kind of woman) from entering her house. Is she allowed her choice or not, however reprehensible we may consider hers’?

  2. March 4, 2008 11:56 pm

    I flatly refuse to accept this statistic. I have conducted job screenings and interviews. Resume’s don’t get rejected if they are focussed on the job advertised. They don’t get rejected if the skills are met.

    How often have you heard people saying “I applied to 10 companies today.” I can tell you that that candidate will be rejected by each of these companies simply because applying for a job is not like throwing stones in air hoping to score a hit.

    Indians like to self pity and the excuse given will be ‘I am getting discriminated against’.

    I’m not saying that discrimination doesn’t exist. But ‘ two out of three Indians believe that …’ is nonsense. Maybe its simply difficult for people who grew up on quotas to compete in the open world?

    Rambodoc makes an explicit comment.

  3. March 5, 2008 12:23 am

    I don’t understand one thing. By looking at somebody’s face no one can tell whether he is Hindu, Muslim or Christian. Then how the discrimination is done? Why should any employer ask for a persons religion to give a job. I don’t agree that job discrimination is prevalent in India.

  4. March 5, 2008 12:54 am


    Thanks for so much information about job discrimination.It is a FACT that job discrimination exists due to different reasons in different countries.I am really concerned about discrimination against differently abled people.Differently abled people generally have much superior skills in certain areas.But their skills get overlooked due to their different abilities.They do not even require positive discrimination.All they require is equal opportunities.People just need to give them a chance and they will prove their worth.However,the good thing is that this is changing because technology has opened up several avenues for them and they seem to find it somewhat easier to get a job these days.

    Discrimination against women and different kinds of minorities definitely exists as well.This is especially true when it comes to promotions and internal job postings.

  5. March 5, 2008 8:15 am

    R doc I uphold your right to hire pretty women. 🙂 However if you ask me a man who is denied employment because of the same or even a matronly lady, are unlikely to complain to the EOC. It would certainly be a trivial complaint, meant only to harass you. Like all commissions/laws/acts, there will be people who will use this to harrass those they don’t like. It will indeed be a fine line between a legitmate complaint and a false one and not only for the reasons you have cited. There will also be incompetent people who will complain. I do hope any such commission takes all these things is into consideration otherwise the EOC will become a farce. If you note, people in sweden are the ones who seem to complain most about discrimination and I think that’s very interesting. Once such a commission starts off, will almsot every Indian complain? 🙂

    Priyank, I think partly it depends on the kind of company, and I don’t mean industry. Some organisations are professional but some aren’t. About 2 out of 3, it does seem a very high number doesn’t it, but some of these people may be complaining for nothing. As you said, human beings love to complain and the likelihood of complaining when one does not get a job is pretty high, but it depends on temperament.

    Old Sailor, I think they meant at the application stage. Names tell a lot.

    Raj, I agree that discrimination does exist but how much and how deep is difficult to say. I will be writing about discrimination at the workplace too in another post.

  6. March 5, 2008 9:47 am

    these are interesting facts…
    i did not realize that in spite of all the hullah gullah about SC/ST .. it is 3rd in the list for the criteria for discrimination.

  7. March 5, 2008 10:28 am

    You plucked the thought out of my mind Ankur!! But the anger that people feel when they feel that they are discriminated against because of their race is intense. Somehow people seem to be more accepting if they are discriminated against because of their age and sex, but that is because of conditioning (I am talking of India only). This will change though if we go by what is happening in the west. Over there people get into a real lather if they are discriminated against because of age or sex.

  8. krenim permalink
    March 5, 2008 12:04 pm

    This is rubbish! If person A makes me more money than person B then person A is more valuable to me clear and simple.
    In a lot of jobs a WASP gets preference over Asians because they are deemed to be a better ‘cultural fit’ for the profile,the private concern is there to make money it isn’t their fault nor should it be their responsibility to reform society.

    Besides Britain has no dearth of successful asians Mittal,Arun Sarin and the like, a lot of this discrimination claims is actually ‘saving face’ which is pretty important in Asian cultures.

  9. March 5, 2008 12:29 pm

    Nita, I completely agree with you here. I have friends in Singapore who’ve told me first hand that they gt discriminated against, when they look for jobs, because they’re of Indian origin. Having a company policy that prohibits any kind of discrimination is proof that there won’t be any discrimination. We are all human after all. Any recruiter who comes across a resume carrying a foreign name will be perturbed. Forget about a foreign name. Even in India, I know that people don’t want to give jobs to ST/SC. And I was told about it from a friend of mine who is SC. She told me that her mom has a very prestigious position in a post office, yet the peon refuses to bring her water/tea anything!

    Even in the US, there are EEO organizations, but I don’t feel that people follow it 100%. I can give you a couple of personal examples, but I’ll let it be for now. It’s quite upsetting for me personally.

    And I’m sure that graph is 99% correct.

  10. March 5, 2008 12:34 pm

    Forgot to add another thing- So many Indians come to the US and get a new name- Anything- Lisa Brown, Brad Pitt etc. Why? Because they’re scared that people won’t look at their resumes if they have international names. In fact, so many times, I email people and it’s only when I talk to them over the phone that I realize that Mr. Brad is actually an Indian.

  11. March 5, 2008 1:51 pm

    I don’t think there is racial discrimination in jobs or even based on cast. I don’t think people mention all these things in resume. So there is no scope for interviewer to know about all these things.
    But to some extent, I see gender discrimination. On contrary biased towards girls 😀 ..Once i heard that in all these top IT services companies placements in India, On average 7 out of 10 are girls.
    No offense meant. Just a point i have observed.

  12. March 5, 2008 2:19 pm

    But to some extent, I see gender discrimination. On contrary biased towards girls 😀 ..Once i heard that in all these top IT services companies placements in India, On average 7 out of 10 are girls.#

    which company?????
    i would love to work in such a paradise

  13. March 5, 2008 5:58 pm

    Krenim, interesting to hear the views of an Englishman! I do agree that at times the cultural fit is necessary though I am not qualified to say which jobs. If you had given an example I could have understood it better. And I do agree that making money should be the primary motive of companies, otherwise they won’t survive. You have mentioned businessmen like Mittal etc but this post isn’t about businessmen who are not ‘hired’ as such, they make their own way. Certainly Britain is a free society which allows people of all types to succeed….but the main thing here is hiring. If Mittal prefers (just an example!) only people of Indian origin for example in his company then it could be called racial discrimination.

    Thanks Ruhi for the perspective from the US. I have relatives in the US and I hear such stuff…I guess to some extent it’s human. In India it’s the same, and I am not talking just of caste. There are certain people who want to hire people from their own region only…and people from every state are guilty in this regard. In fact if one takes this sort of parochialism as a whole (country-wise), I am sure it will beat the discrimination against people of caste.

    VaMsI, it is not at all difficult to make out from the name what is the caste of the person.

  14. Amanda permalink
    February 14, 2010 12:40 am

    I’m Malaysian, and discrimination on Indian and Chinese in Malaysia is NEVER happen.
    Only the small majority of Indian and Chinese, who feeling such that. There were supported by betrayed government politician, Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

    The richest person in Malaysia is Indian, even the Indian only make only about 8percent of whole Malaysia population. And followed by 8 Chinese billionaire.

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