By Debra Chong
Assistant News Editor
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 2 — Malaysian employers tend to favour Chinese job applicants over their Malay counterparts, a recent university study has shown, indicating racial discrimination underscores the hiring process in the private sector labour market.
In their joint research, Universiti Malaya (UM) senior lecturer in development studies Dr Lee Hwok Aun and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) research fellow Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid found that fresh Chinese graduates are more likely to be called for a job interview based on their resumes compared to Malays.
“Our findings suggest that employers are generally predisposed favourably towards Chinese, substantially due to compatibility factors and unobservable qualities not revealed in job applications, and are more selective towards Malays, which results in fewer but considerably qualified applicants getting callbacks,” the duo stated in an abstract of their seminar paper being presented at UM today.
The two academics said they had conducted a field experiment by sending made-up resumes of fresh Malay and Chinese graduates to real job advertisements.
From their research, Lee and Muhammed Abdul found that while both Malay and Chinese graduates who listed Chinese-language proficiency and stated that they graduated from a certain university were likely to increase their chances to be called for an interview, yet employers — especially those that were Chinese-controlled or foreign-run — were significantly inclined to pick the Chinese applicant.
They noted that the racial discrimination was sharper in engineering jobs than in the accounting or finance sector.
They also found that in the engineering industry, Malays were most likely to be rejected by foreign-controlled companies, followed by Malay-controlled companies and lastly Chinese-controlled firms.
However, they said their data does not directly show the motif of the racial discrimination in the hiring process based on the experiment they had conducted.
Lee and Muhammed Abdul are presenting their paper, titled “Does race matter in getting an interview? A field experiment of hiring discrimination in Peninsular Malaysia”, at UM’s Economics and Administration Faculty at 10am.
Malaysia’s mushrooming local higher education institutions churned out a total 184,581 graduates last year, according to the latest statistics released on the Higher Education Ministry’s website. Of that figure, 44,391 people or 24 per cent are unemployed. The Najib administration has set aside some RM500 million in its Budget 2013 to spend on jobless youths to make them marketable.
Human rights group Proham — formed by influential former members of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia and the Police Commission — has been urging Putrajaya to ratify the UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 1969 (ICERD), which it suggests will be a positive step to resolve the existing racial bigotry in the country than sweeping it under the carpet.
Its chairman Tan Sri Simon Sipaun stressed that racial discrimination was a form of human rights violation that triggers a “brain drain” situation and stands in the way of Malaysia’s progress in today’s competitive world.
“There are no less than 1.5 million Malaysians with tertiary education who have left the country,” he said in a statement two days ago, adding that it “stunts meritocracy”.