An interesting parliamentary debate is taking place right now in Canada on name-based discrimination and promoting name-blind resumes as a solution. Amit Sarwal talks to Usman W. Chohan, who is researching on economic policy reforms at UNSW (Canberra) and has extensive experience in private, public and academia sector policy making.
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s newly formed culturally diverse cabinet has initiated a very interesting parliamentary debate on promoting “name-blind” resumes.
Here, Canada is taking a lead from the United Kingdom, where resumes submitted within the public service should not have the candidate’s name on them.
According to Usman W. Chohan, a researcher and expert on economic policy reforms at UNSW (Canberra), through this method both the UK and Canada “are trying to preclude the systemic biases of employers from manifesting themselves in the hiring process, whether it be in the form of racial or gender discrimination (or both).”
But what’s in a name? After all, it is the qualification and skill level that matter when someone is applying for a job?
Usman says that “research on name-based discrimination points to a single conclusion: discrimination against candidates based on their names is a systemic aspect of the labour market that affects women, visible minorities, and women from visible minorities.”
Is Australia any different from other Western or Anglosphere countries?
Usman points out that the recent research on resume-based discrimination in Australia against foreign sounding names is “both statistically significant and worryingly pervasive.
He says – “It has been found that discrimination against persons with East Asian and Middle Eastern names is particularly rife, while in the public service the ‘alarming’ absence of indigenous Australians is also noteworthy.”
But, what are the consequences of name-based discrimination?
Usman says, “job discrimination also thwarts efforts to de-radicalise youth groups in Australia, and as an example, regression analysis has shown that young Muslim Australians face employment discrimination of an Islamophobic character.”
He adds that a name-based discrimination in resumes “hinders efforts to remove the glass ceiling and achieve fairer and more optimal outcomes for working women in Australia.”
And lastly, according to Usman, such discrimination often “compounds the disenfranchisement of minorities when it is paired with other forms of prejudice, such as that observed in the housing market, or in the education system.”
Will going to a name-blind resume, as a police initiative, help address any shortcomings in the selection process?
Usman feels that given Australia’s immigration policy, which is premised on a points-based system with a view to labour market participation, “subconscious racial prejudices are an unequivocal obstacle to policy implementation.”
The only solution is to eradicate such forms of discrimination in Australia is to work constructively on policy level by using the notion of name-blind resumes and help address several shortcomings in our society simultaneously.
Usman concludes - “perhaps it is better not to know whether that stellar resume on your desk came from an Ali, an Albert, an Allison, or an Aliyah!”