There is lots in a name

There is lots in a name
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First Published: Thu, Nov 01 2007. 11 31 PM IST
Updated: Thu, Nov 01 2007. 11 31 PM IST
Education promised to be the key to a brighter future for Muslim children in India’s rapidly globalized economy.
A recent study, however, finds that the chances of getting a call for an interview can be reduced to as much as 33% for a candidate with a Muslim name, compared to a candidate with a high-caste Hindu name who has equivalent qualifications.
The study was lead by Sukhdeo Thorat, chairperson of the University Grants Commission, and Paul Attewell of City University of New York. Over 66 weeks starting October 2005, the two researchers responded to job advertisements in national and regional English newspapers. For each advertised position, they sent applications listing identical qualifications and experience. Only the names used on the applications differed. There was no explicit mention of caste or religion, but names were easily identifiable as upper caste Hindu, Dalit or Muslim.
Only private companies were targeted and jobs that required little or no experience. In 66 weeks, the researchers sent 4,808 applications in response to 548 job advertisements. A call for an interview or for a written test was considered a success for that application. The researchers were looking to see if the chances of receiving an interview call are the same for a high caste, a Dalit and a Muslim name.
Two statistical methods on the data resulted in similar outcomes. One method suggested that the odds of getting an interview call for a candidate with a Dalit name is 0.67 and for one with a Muslim name is 0.33, compared to an equally qualified applicant with a high caste Hindu name. Another method gave the odds 0.68 and 0.35 for Dalits and Muslims, respectively. Both the results are statistically significant, which means that it is highly unlikely for this to happen by random chance.
The researchers concluded that “having a high-caste name considerably improves a job applicant’s chances of a positive outcome”, adding that “on average, college-educated lower-caste and Muslim job applicants fare less well than equivalently qualified applicants with high-caste names, when applying by mail for employment with the modern private-enterprise sector.”
This is not surprising; the Sachar Committee on the Indian Muslim community also found that the private sector had a dismal representation of Muslims. It recommended sensitizing the private sector to diversity in their workforce and suggested boosting Muslims recruitment through positive discrimination and affirmative action. The committee’s report proposed the idea of an incentive-based “diversity index”.
The committee also noted that “our data shows when Muslims appear for the prescribed tests and interviews their success rate is appreciable. This applies both to the public and private sector jobs.” But the present study suggests that any Muslim has about one-third of a chance of landing that test or interview compared to a high-caste Hindu.
Thorat and Attewell wrote in an article in the 13 October 2007 edition of Economic and Political Weekly that, despite legal safeguards, when a social group remains backward, it is blamed on that group’s low level of education. They state that discrimination is not acknowledged in a modern capitalist economy.
This study conclusively proves that there is discrimination in corporate India against Dalits and Muslims, with Muslims suffering the most.
“These were all highly educated and appropriately qualified applicants attempting to enter the modern private sector, yet, even in this sector, caste and religion proved influential in determining one’s job chances,” the researchers commented.
Kashif-ul-Huda is editor of news website www.TwoCircles.net. Comments are welcome at otherviews@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Nov 01 2007. 11 31 PM IST