By Shahfizal Musa
Pix Shahiddan Saidi
BANGI, 4 June 2013 - Race more than résumé quality is the main consideration for getting an interview for jobs in Chinese controlled and International companies in this country.
This was the finding of two senior lecturers from the University of Malaya, Dr Lee Hwok Aun from the Department of Development Studies and Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid in a six month experiment they undertook to find out whether response to applications for jobs are based on ethnicity of the applicants.
Dr Lee presented the findings at a seminar on “Degrees of Discrimination: Race and Graduate Hiring in Malaysia” organised by Institute of Malaysian and International Studies of The National University of Malaysia (UKM) here today.
The findings are based on a field experiment conducted by them through the sending out of fictitious Malay and Chinese résumés of varying qualities to job advertisements, then analysing differentials in callbacks for interview.
Overall 22.1% of the Chinese applicants receive call backs from prospective employers with the Malay applicants receiving only 4.2% call backs.
Dr Lee said they took great pains and care to ensure that the resumes they sent out to employers have very little differences in achievements. "Resumes that were sent to employers are comparable in quality so that differences in treatment be more objectively attributed to racial identity”.
He cautioned the media that their study was only about the employment situation for fresh graduates. It was not done to find out why ethnic Chinese are preferred.
Analysis of the results was extensive with the figures clearly showing that there is discrimination against Malay graduates even in Malay controlled companies where the number of call backs received by Chinese candidates was 6.8% against 4.8% for Malay applicants.
Dr Lee did not state whether this showed that the Malays do not discriminate against the Chinese.
As for the Chinese controlled companies out of the total resumes sent 24% of the Chinese applicants received call backs for interviews but only 6.8% Malay applications received call backs.
For foreign controlled companies the numbers are 22.9% for Chinese applicants with none of the Malay applicants getting any call back.
The field study did not include resumes of graduates studying abroad but includes resume from both the private and public institutions of higher learning. The result showed employers prefer graduates from established public universities than from private universities.
Dr Lee, however, cautioned that the study should not be taken out of context. It shows that there is discrimination against Malay graduates when it comes to call backs for interviews but to ascertain the reasons for that, more research needed to be done to discover the truth.
He also cautioned against using the findings to accuse Chinese employers of being bigots. This would be unfair even if there was discrimination considering the Malays represent the largest segment of the population.
He did conceed that it is impossible to know what is in the minds of the decision makers when selecting their candidates. There definitely is a problem and needed to be addressed but it would be difficult if the study is used as a weapon to further certain agendas.
There will also be those who disagree with the findings and will try to discredit it. But, Dr Lee stressed that the problem needed to be solved.
There is no quick fix to the complex problem but it warrants a discussion at the national level with sincere intention to reach a just solution, Dr Lee said.
Present at the Seminar was Deputy Director of IKMAS, Prof Dr Tham Siew Yean, academicians and members of the media.