24 October 2016
Billy (left) says he was racially discriminated against in terms of salary and days off. Monica (right) said she used to be discriminated against in the past. Photo: Chinese YMCA
Billy (left) says he was racially discriminated against in terms of salary and days off. Monica (right) said she used to be discriminated against in the past. Photo: Chinese YMCA

Job survey reveals unspoken racism against ethnic minorities

While nearly 90 percent of employers in a recent survey claimed they would not take the skin colour or race of job seekers into account when making hiring decisions, many behave differently in practice.

The survey, done by the Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong between September last year and April, was aimed at understanding the employment and recruitment of ethnic minorities and the perceptions of employers and the considerations involved in the process.

A total of 233 employers and employees in various industries were interviewed.

Over the past five years, 28 percent of the employers encountered job seekers who belonged to ethnic minorities, but only 20 percent had recruited members of those minorities.

Although 82 percent of the employers said they were willing to provide internship opportunities for members of ethnic minorities, they raised many concerns. 

About 62 percent of the employers agreed that a lack of work experience is a barrier for ethnic minorities looking for a job, while 67 percent said the problem is academic qualifications that are not recognized.

The Chinese YMCA, citing responses from in-depth focus group sessions with 10 employers, said some employers still hold prejudices against minority job hunters.

“They [ethnic minorities] have awkward body odor. I think it affects others,” an unnamed employer was quoted as saying. 

“I sometimes meet them in public transport. They speak loudly and look very unfriendly, and they seem rude,” another employer said.

“I have seen them unexpectedly walk away during a conference and go for worship. This is worrying.”

The Chinese YMCA also interviewed 23 youths from ethnic minorities. They said they always receive an unfriendly reception during the recruitment process.

“They [employers] thought I was a local during the telephone conversation and asked me to go for a job interview, but when I arrived they told me there was no job vacancy,” an unnamed interviewee said.

Billy, an ethnic minority youth who worked in a bar, faced a different problem.

He started his job in the same position and on the same day as a local youth, but Billy was paid only HK$40 per hour, while the local youth received HK$60 per hour. 

Billy’s request for a day off was rejected by his boss, while his local colleagues could take a day off any time they wanted.

Monica, an ethnic Indian, said she used to be discriminated against in the past, but she finally got a job as an English teaching assistant and remains confident in her own talent.

Shiu Yuen-ling, the Chinese YMCA’s coordinating secretary, suggests the government and the public promote race-friendly policies.

Shiu said employers should take the first step by providing opportunities for work trials for ethnic minorities, and they should make the same job offers to all recruits, regardless of ethnicity. 

She said the government should increase public awareness of the new generation of ethnic minorities and organize outreach programs to encourage businesses to provide more job opportunities to ethnic minorities.

The Labor Department should also provide translation services for employers, to make it easier for ethnic minorities to get jobs, Shiu said.

Ferrick Chu Chung-man, head of policy and research at the Equal Opportunities Commission, said the EOC will carry out a detailed study of the recommendations in the report of the survey and actively promote equal opportunities for ethnic minorities in employment.

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EJ Insight intern reporter

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