Department for Work and Pensions
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Government research shows racial discrimination in recruitment

New research published today by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), shows that racial discrimination in recruitment still exists towards ethnic minority people.

The study showed discrimination occurred for those applying for jobs with a name suggesting they were from an ethnic minority, rather than white British. For every nine applications sent by a white applicant, an equally good applicant with an ethnic minority name had to send sixteen to obtain a positive response.

Three applications were sent to 987 advertised job vacancies giving a total of 2,961 applications.  Applications were made to private, public and voluntary sector employers of varying sizes.

The public sector vacancies included in this study – which usually required standard application forms, did not discriminate at this initial stage of recruitment.  This suggests that discrimination might be reduced by the use of standard application forms.

Jim Knight, Minister for Employment at Welfare Reform said:

"This research clearly shows that some employers are discriminating when it comes to choosing staff.  This has no place in a modern society and racial discrimination cannot be allowed to continue. 

"We introduced laws to stop discrimination at work and strengthened them in 2000.   We also introduced new diversity and equality requirements in DWP contracts with suppliers.  Employees can use the Race Relations Act to take employers to a tribunal if they are being treated unfairly and they will also get support and advice from the European Human Rights Commission to do so.

"We are determined to stop this scourge on society - the Equality Bill will strengthen our hand and we are already preparing to publish specific plans for dealing with discrimination in the workplace later this year."

Sandra Kerr, National Campaign Director, Race for Opportunity said:

"Race for Opportunity welcomes all research into the ethnic minority employment gap and, in particular, into the reasons why ethnic minorities remain underrepresented in the UK workforce. However, it is important that we work beyond the headlines, and concentrate on addressing the causes for this unfairness."

The need for the research was based on the persistent and unexplained gap in the employment rate between the ethnic minority population and the population of Great Britain, where there is still a 13.8 percentage point difference today.

The Government is looking at ways to encourage further diversity amongst the workforce - including how public sector procurement can drive diversity. Recently published research from "procurement pilots", introduced new diversity and equality requirements across gender, race and disability in DWP contracts with suppliers.

Notes to Editors

  1. The research was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research.  Three very similar applications to actual vacancies were submitted across a particular set of occupations and areas between November 2008 and May 2009. One of the three had a White British name with the other two were from different ethnic minority groups. Names were randomly assigned to different applications. All the applications contained British education and work histories.  Three applications were sent to 987 advertised job vacancies giving a total of 2,961 applications. Applications were made to private, public and voluntary sector employers of varying sizes. Discrimination was measured as differential treatment at an aggregate level between the ethnic groups in the study.
  2. The research findings will be discussed by the Ethnic Minority Employment Task Force on 10th November, along with recommendations from the Ethnic Minority Advisory Group’s Employer Engagement Project Group. Their recommendations centre on promoting a “Know Yourself” campaign to employers, to raise their awareness, and hence help them recognise and address any biases and prejudices. The Task Force will consider what action Government should take in response to the research findings, the campaign being one policy option that we could develop further as a policy response.
  3. The intention is that the response should not create a burden to business.  Many employers are already aware of the benefits and are working on the agenda of increasing the ethnic diversity of their workforce. Employers in the Race for Opportunity network are sharing good practice and can demonstrate real returns in terms of bottom line impact. Race for Opportunity Case Studies
  4. The selected names were developed in stages by testing to establish whether they were generally recognised as being from the anticipated ethnic group, of the anticipated gender, and whether they were neutral with regard to age and social class.  A sample of the names used is below:

Nazia Mahmood Pakistani/Bangladeshi F
Muhammed Kahlid Pakistani/Bangladeshi M
Mariam Namagembe Black African F
Anthony Olukayode Black African M
Alison Taylor White British F
Andrew Clarke White British M

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