Why employers dodge foreign names

Some employers reject immigrants for job positions based on just their names. - Mark Grant

Study shows finding a job in Toronto is a struggle if your name sounds non-English

Yalda Sarwar
Editorial Intern

Some employers reject immigrants for job positions based on just their names. - Mark Grant

As an immigrant from Afghanistan, I always thought Toronto was a city of opportunity. My fellow relatives who were living here before me kept praising the countless number of opportunities that one could have after immigrating here, including plentiful amounts of rewarding jobs.

But according to a study co-founded by the Metropolis Project of British Columbia, an international council for research and policy on migration and a government funded organization, this idea is far from the truth.

Researcher Philip Oreopolous, an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Toronto who is also one of the co-authors and one of the main researchers of this study, found that applicants with non-English sounding names are “less likely to be hired comparing to those with common English names.”

“Resumes with English-sounding names are 35 per cent more likely to receive callbacks than resumes with Indian or Chinese names”, while Canadian immigrants’ “unemployment rates compared to similarly aged non-immigrants are about 49 per cent lower compared to native-born workers,” says Oreopolous.

He also added that, “when [they] asked recruiters to explain why they believed name discrimination had occurred in the labour market, [the recruiters], overwhelmingly responded that employers often treat a name as a signal that an applicant may lack critical language or social skills for the job, which contradicts the conclusions from our quantative analysis”.

The researchers began the study by distributing six thousand resumes containing applicants with ethnic and English names, as well as individuals who had Canadian and foreign experience in other major cities of the world, through online job postings across the province.

The researchers found that a greater number of immigrants are being rejected from various occupational posts because of
their name, and their ethnicity.Considering the multicultural community of York, I realized that students have also been affected by this issue.

Sivaramakrishnan Balasubramaniyan, a second-year Kinesiology major, remembers a time he had felt like he needed to change both his first and his last name.He says he chose to shorten his first and last name to Siva Bala because he not only was “afraid of people being confused pronouncing his name wrong”, but he said he also changed his first and last name because he “felt pressure living in a white neighbourhood.”

Today, expectations are a lot higher for Canadian immigrants in contrast to native-Canadians, “the overall percentage of recent immigrants with an undergraduate degree is about 60 per cent, compared to 20 per cent for Canadian-born residents of similar age” notes Statistics Canada . In addition, the unemployment rate for immigrants in Canada is 8.3 per cent and for those who recently moved to the country, it is 13.4 per cent compared to Canadian-born workers at 5.4 per cent.

With the number of Canadian immigrants growing each year, and many looking to Canada for an optimistic future, it is important that Canada solve this growing issue. The researchers offer possible solutions to the problem which include training recruiters to be more aware of possible bias and to think of better ways of recognizing foreign-language ability.

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