Indian and Malay job seekers face discrimination

Employers prefer Chinese candidates

By V. Shankar Ganesh

A recent survey has revealed that racial discrimination is deeply rooted in the mindset of Malaysian employers.

It found that Malays and Indians are more likely to experience discrimination in the private sector when applying for jobs.

The Centre for Governance and Political Studies carried out a survey that concluded Malays and Indians face difficulties in landing a job interview compared to Chinese applicants.

The think tank carried out an experimental study whereby its researchers posed as seven different applicants comprising all three races. All had the same qualifications and credentials, making them perfect candidates for the job.

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

Seven fictitious characters - three Malays, two Chinese and two Indians - each send 547 applications for vacancies looking for business-degree holders. 

All listed their Mandarin as intermediate, to see if employers that sought Mandarin-speaking candidates have other preferences apart from language.

The study's shocking results showed a bias in favour of the two Chinese applicants.

Nicola, a Chinese candidate, received a 55% callback rate while Thivakar only got 9%.

"This leads us to the conclusion that, for the most part, when companies list 'Mandarin required' in their advertisement, it is actually a filter to hire Chinese candidates," he explained.

"Our fictitious Chinese candidates dominated the callbacks by a huge margin.

"The two lowest scoring candidates are the Malay male and the Indian male," said Zaidel.

Zaidel said their initial hypotheses was that ethnic Malays were the most discriminated in the private sector but the findings proved otherwise.

He said there was also a bias against Malay women who wore a head scarf.

A Malay woman without a hijab got more callbacks than the one wearing a hijab.

“Mandarin requirement is just a smokescreen to hire Chinese candidates,” the think tank suggested.

Zaidel also suggested some level of government intervention to address employment discrimination, like tax incentives for companies that promote diversity.

“You're missing out on all the good talents because they don't get chosen,” he said.