Recruitment-discrimination

EMPLOYERS DISCRIMINATE ON ALMOST EVERY LEVEL

Employers discriminate against job seekers who are older, overweight, often on sick leave, have several children or belong to ethnic or religious minorities. Big firms seem to be less likely to discriminate than smaller firms. These are the findings of new research by Stefan Eriksson, Per Johansson and Sophie Langenskiöld, presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2013 annual conference.

In an experiment, employers in Stockholm were asked to choose between two hypothetical job applicants to invite to a job interview or to hire. A total of 1,000 employers in the Swedish capital were asked to participate, and the study is based on the responses from 426 firms. The main results are that:

· Job applicants who are obese or who have been on sick leave more than five times in the past year have an 80 percentage points lower probability of being offered a job than applicants who are normal weight or who have not been absent.

  • Applicants who are Muslims or Jews, are born outside Europe or have more than one child have a 25 percentage points lower probability of being offered a job.
  • Applicants older than 55 years have a 60 percentage points lower probability of being invited to a job interview compared with applicants who are under 30.
  • Private and public employers do not differ, but firms with at least 250 employees seem to be less likely to discriminate than smaller firms.
  • To get employers to hire these applicants would require them to take a pay cut of as much as half for applicants who are overweight or repeatedly on sick leave, and as much as 15% for other characteristics.

According to the authors, the discrimination can be explained by the fact that employers evaluate applicants based on their beliefs about the average productivity of various groups (known as ‘statistical discrimination’) or by employers having prejudice for or against some groups (euphemistically known as ‘preference-based discrimination’).

One of the authors, Per Johansson, adds that many of the firms are basing their discrimination on past experience or an expectation based on perception:

‘We believe that both types of discrimination are relevant, but overall our results suggest that statistical discrimination is especially important’.

More…

The study uses a stated choice experiment, where employers in the Swedish capital Stockholm first were asked to describe the most recent employee who had left the firm and then were asked to choose between two hypothetical applicants as a replacement for the previous employee. A total of 1,000 employers were asked to participate, and the study is based on the responses from 426 firms.

The results show that applicants who are obese or who have been on sick leave more than five times in the past year have an around 80 percentage points lower probability of being offered a job than applicants who are normal weight or who have not been absent.

Applicants who are Muslims or Jews, are born outside Europe or have more than one child have an around 25 percentage points lower probability of being offered a job. Being older than 55 years gives an approximately 64 percentage points lower probability of being invited to a job interview compared with applicants who is under 30.

Private and public employers do not differ, but firms with at least 250 employees seem to be less likely to discriminate than smaller firms.

‘The effects are substantial, especially for those who are obese or have been on repeated sick leave’, says Per Johansson, who is one of the authors. ‘But country of birth and religious affiliation seem to matter as well.’

The discrimination may be explained by the fact that employers evaluate applicants based on their beliefs about the average productivity of various groups (‘statistical discrimination’) or by employers having preferences for or against some groups (‘preference-based discrimination’).

‘We believe that both types of discrimination are relevant, but overall our results suggest that statistical discrimination is especially important. Employers seem to find it difficult to evaluate applicants from some groups’, says Per Johansson.

The authors have also calculated the wage that employers would like to set to hire applicants they are uncertain about. For workers who have been on repeated sick leave or who are obese, the wage would need to be reduced by up to 50% compared with workers without these characteristics. For workers with more than one child or belonging to ethnic or religious minorities, the wage would need to be reduced by around 15%.

ENDS


Notes for editors:

‘What is the right profile for getting a job? A stated choice experiment of the recruitment process’ by Stefan Eriksson, Per Johansson and Sophie Langenskiöld, Uppsala University and IFAU.

Contact:

Per Johansson, + 46 (0) 705 471 003 (per.johansson@ifau.uu.se)
Stefan Eriksson (stefan.eriksson@nek.uu.se)

RES media consultant Romesh Vaitilingam:
+44 (0) 7768 661095
romesh@vaitilingam.com
@econromesh

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