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Job discrimination at the workplace (Part 2)

March 5, 2008
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If there is discrimination during the hiring process there is bound to be some sort of discrimination at at the workplace too, right? Even if an employer has systems in place to hinder discrimination during the application stage, there will always be people who will discriminate once the candidate is hired, due to their own prejudices.

Here is another graph from the same survey which I wrote about in my yesterday’s post – the Kelly survey*

This is the graph country-wise:


This graph, which shows discrimination at the workplace, shows similar trends to the one which showed discrimination while getting the job. Sure, there are differences, but only Sweden’s position has dramatically changed. It has moved from Rank 1 (discrimination while applying) to somewhere in the middle of the list (discrimination at workplace). On the face of this means (for Sweden) that once you get a job you are protected from discrimination to a large extent…but this does not seem to hold true for the other countries as respondents complained of both almost equally. (They were asked to talk about the experiences of the previous 5 years)

From the graph below it does seem as if more people feel discriminated against while applying for jobs than at the workplace, and while this is largely true, it can vary country to country. In India fewer people felt discriminated against while on the job (53 percent) as compared to those who felt discriminated against while applying (64 percent).


If one compares with the rest of the world though India is high on both lists – 5th when it comes to discrimination while applying for a job and 2nd when it comes to discrimination at the workplace.

The fairly high level of dissatisfaction in India could mean that people are just upset (after all this is a perception survey) when they don’t get the promotion/raise/salary they feel they deserve. It is certainly human nature to complain…in fact it’s rare to hear anyone who is not promoted say I deserve not getting promoted. Not that this should blind us to the ugly fact that discrimination at the workplace does exist…

What the Kelly survey reveals about India isn’t pleasant. Over 50 percent of those polled in India believed that they are discriminated against at the workplace, for various reasons like age, gender, race and religion and a myriad other things. Some findings:

  • 100 percent of those living in Uttaranchal, Bihar, and Jharkhand complain of discrimination (in their own states) at the workplace.
  • 80 percent of people in Punjab complain of discrimination
  • 70 percent of those in Gujarat complain of discrimination
  • 58 percent of those in Karnataka complain of discrimination

Other states are lower down on the list, but detailed information was not available.

Those who feel discriminated against at the workplace complain of lower wages. A study undertaken by the University Grants Commission in conjunction with Princeton University (4,808 applications for 548 jobs advertised in English newspapers over 66 weeks starting October 2005 were analysed) reveals that discrimination at the workplace often manifests itself as lower wages for the discriminated group. The study enumerates that there is a discrepancy between the wages of lower and upper castes in the “regular salaried urban labour market, about 15 percent lower wages for SC/ST”.

The same study also says that those from the lower castes tend to come from disadvantaged backgrounds and can “enter the job market with weaker English language and computer skills.”

So on one hand it is logical for companies to give lower wages to a person without such skills if these skills are necessary to performance on the job. On the other hand, there is something called “training” via which the person gets an opportunity to improve himself.

I personally believe that a bright youngster with a desire to learn should be given the necessary training/opportunity to brush up his language skills. Finally it’s the way one thinks that matters. It is not necessary that everyone with language skills will be good at their jobs or will exhibit good reasoning skills, and there are innumerable instances of people who ‘talk’ rather than ‘do’. Also attitude at work – by which I mean a strong desire to learn and succeed – can go a long way in improving performance.

Affirmative action from Infosys has been in the news (Feb 08):

Having already trained around 100 graduate and postgraduate science students free of cost as a pilot project in 2007, Infosys has written to the social justice and empowerment ministry, offering to continue the training programme for poor students, mainly from the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Other Backward Classes (OBC).

At the same time I want to add that I believe that all disadvantaged people should be helped, all those from poorer backgrounds. Regardless of their race or religion or gender.

This type of training will work to remove discrimination only if the reason for discrimination is a lack of certain soft skills…but if the reason is racial then I guess it’s the bosses who need training.

Overall all though we need to keep certain things in perspective. I mean, there may be job discrimination in India due to various complex factors, but this problem exists all over the world. A certain section of the populace will always be prejudiced and we need to keep fighting job discrimination as if it is a disease. Discrimination can only harm progress and harm business too as the best talent is not used. Another thing – Racism is only one of the reasons for discrimination at the workplace. Many of us get so worked up about this that we forget that there is plenty of other kinds of discrimination as well – age and gender are both significant factors and more important in India than race.

Note 1: This is actually the Part II of the post I wrote yesterday. I broke the post up into two parts as I did not want to clutter the post.

Note 2: I have chosen these two surveys to write about mainly because they had information about India. There is very little research on this subject pertaining to India. If anyone else has any other study pertaining to this subject please do let me know. Thanks.

*The Kelly survey analysed results from 70,000 job seekers in 28 countries.

Related Reading: Should you leave that job you hate?
Job Hopping and Blogging Trends
Caste based affirmative action doesn’t always work
Job Discrimination during the hiring process – (Part 1 of this post)

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ramesh permalink
    March 6, 2008 7:24 am

    Thank you this detailed article. Workplace discrimination is there everywhere and if you ask any person who is in an office he will tell you an example right there in front of him. Reasons are many. I myself have felt this problem because of my age. All around there are young people, including the bosses and I don’t fit in. Mostly they think I shouldn’t be there.

  2. Meg permalink
    March 6, 2008 2:05 pm

    Actually lot of reasons for the discrimination, can even be because one is from different type of background and it’s not a matter of caste, just a matter of not going to the right college or whatever you know? Groupism in there and I have seen people of one institute at times gang up together and the like. they have this snob attitude of others being inferior and then it’s a problem.

  3. March 6, 2008 9:03 pm

    Sorry meg, ramesh for not replying earlier, had a hectic day today!
    Ramesh, I think age discrimination is maximum in India.

    Meg, yes you are right. I have heard of these things happening in some blue chip companies. There is a ‘club’ of those who are recruited from some top institutes and they tend to favour those who are from their own institute. Probably they do it because they think they have good reason to I am sure! 🙂

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