07 May 2009

New ESRI Study reveals Discrimination against People with non-Irish Names

A recent study has found clear evidence of discrimination by Irish employers against people with non-Irish names.

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in Dublin conducted this new research into the treatment of Irish and non-Irish job applicants.

As part of the study the researchers sent out 500 CVs in response to job advertisements.
Pairs of CVs with matching details but different names were sent in response to 250 jobs ads.
The two fictitious applicants for each job had identical qualifications, skills and experience. But those with common Irish surnames were more than twice as likely to be called for an interview than people with foreign sounding names.

According to the ESRI's team of researchers, the level of discrimination revealed in Ireland is high, compared to other countries.

Richard Fallon from the Equality Authority said that the findings point to "a needless loss of opportunity" if employers do not look at the skills behind names on job applications.

What the ESRI found out by sending fictitious job applications to Irish employers is no news to me. As my father was from Belgium, I have a surname that looks 'foreign' to most Irish people. And I have experienced discrimination by Irish individuals and institutions over many years.

Employers are only one element of the spectrum. Government offices, TDs, local authorities and their various sub-offices as well as individuals have treated me less favourable than friends and neighbours with typical Irish surnames. And it is still going on.
Almost every day the question I am asked most often by Irish people, after I introduce myself, is: "Where do you come from?"
No-one called Brennan, Hayes, Murphy, O'Neill or Ryan - to mention but five of the typical Irish names - will ever be asked such a question.

But this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. In the past I was refused benefits to which I was entitled like anyone else, my name disappeared mysteriously from lists on which it had been put in my presence, and it happens ever so often that some weird people simply abuse me verbally for being 'foreign', without any particular reason.

Among my friends and acquaintances are several individuals with 'foreign' names, and they had and have similar experiences as I do. An interesting example are two couples I know rather well. In both cases one of the partners is Irish and the other foreign, and they live in the same area of the same Irish town.
The Irish wife of my Austrian friend does experience more discrimination than the German wife of an Irish friend. So - just as the ESRI found out in their study - surnames do play a role in this.
I wonder if this only goes for obviously non-Irish surnames, or also for foreign names that came into Ireland in the past with various waves of migration, such as the Normans or the Huguenots.

But there is another element in regard to job applications that annoys me immensely. Every week thousands of people in Ireland answer job ads and send applications to companies, public offices and organisations. And only very few of them ever receive a reply. This, in my opinion, is rude, arrogant and uncivilised.

In several other EU countries there are rules (and even laws) that entitle any job applicant to a reply, and if it is only a three-line letter saying that the application is not successful. Thus people know where they stand and are treated fair and humanely.
In Ireland there are no rules, so most people never hear anything from potential employers they wrote to. They never know if their letters were actually received and read, and if so, why their job applications did not succeed. This should no longer be tolerated.
And if it needs a new law - in case employers' organisations are unwilling to introduce the matter as a common rule to their members - then we should have it.

The Emerald Islander

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