Study Suggests Racial Bias Against Indian & Malay Jobseekers

  • 08 Mar 2019

Is there racial bias against Indian jobseekers in Malaysia? A recent study seems to suggest that there is.

Over the past few months, the Centre for Governance and Political Studies (Cent-GPS) has been sending out applications for over 500 jobs in the country. In all, Cent-GPS sent out 3829 applications for the jobs that had been advertised in the private sector. 

For each job application, 7 resumes were submitted. The study created 7 fictitious characters who had similar qualifications, experience and command of languages (Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin and English). The only difference was the gender, race and religion of the applicants.

Three of the candidates were Malay (a man, a woman with a hijab and a woman without a hijab), two were Chinese (male and female), and two were Indian (male and female). 

The study only used two models - one man and one woman. The models' photos were edited to make them look fairer or darker depending on their race, and they were given things like pottus or hijabs to highlight their race. Otherwise, everything was the same. 

The results of the study was shocking. The candidates that got the most callbacks were the Chinese man and woman, while the one that had the least callbacks from potential employers was the Indian male. 

Nicola, the female Chinese candidate, needed to only apply to around 2 jobs to be called for an interview. In comparison, the male Indian candidate, Thivakar, needed to apply to 28 jobs just to get ONE callback for an interview. This is despite the fact that his qualifications were exactly the same as Nicola and the other candidates - he even spoke the same level of Mandarin as the others. 

Saddiq, the male Malay candidate, had to apply to 13 jobs in order to get one callback, while Kavita and Nur, the female Malay candidate wearing a hijab, both had to apply to 11 jobs to get called for an interview. Zulaikha, the female Malay without a hijab, needed eight applications for one interview and Gabriel, the Chinese male, needed only 3 applications for each interview invitation. 

The original purpose of the study was to discover if there was racial discrimination against Malay private-sector job applicants compared to non-Malays, but the findings showed that even the Malay candidate with the worst chances of being called for an interview - the hijab-wearing woman - was still twice as likely to get called for an interview than the Indian male. 

“So is there ethnic discrimination? The answer is yes but not just for the Malays, the Indians suffer the worst,” said Cent-GPS researcher Zaidel Baharuddin, when unveiling the findings.

"This study is important because it shows us just how discriminatory our private sector really is. The implications of our study paint a devastating future for Malaysia’s youth.

"If this trend continues, many more will be marginalized simply due to the color of their skin. Hard working Indian and Malay students will not get the opportunity they deserve, creating a dangerous future of inequality and social instability," the Cent-GPS report said.

However, some netizens are claiming that the Cent-GPS study's methodology isn't solid and that there are flaws in the study.