Anonymous job applications key to ending discrimination?

Kjell Ingolf Ropstad. Photo: Magnar Kirknes – NRK

Kjell Ingolf Ropstad. Photo: Magnar Kirknes – NRK

KRF-politician Kjell Ingolf Ropstad wants to allow job seekers to apply anonymously in order to end discrimination as revealed in a new Norwegian study.

Recently, Norwegian researchers did a study in which they fabricated1,800 job applications and sent them out to different companies. All of the “applicants” had the same qualifications and level of education, but some had ethnic Norwegian names while others sounded more foreign. The researchers found out that those with foreign-sounding names were rarely called in to interview, while those with ethnic names often were. After the results of the survey were announced on Tuesday, Ropstad thinks the solution might be to give job seekers a number instead of a nam

– This has been tried out in Gothenburg [Sweden]. There, they used an ID number instead of the name and found that there were several people with non-Swedish names called in for interviews,” said the Christian People’s Party politician, who is a member of the Work and Social Committee, to VG Nett.
“It’s as simple as taking an exam where you supply a number instead of a name. After applications are submitted, you will then be able to go back to the number and get contact information and call the person into the interview. There are certainly several ways to do this,” said Ropstad.

“This has been tried out in Gothenburg [Sweden]. There, they used an ID number instead of the name and found that there were several people with non-Swedish names called in for interviews,” said the Christian People’s Party politician, who is a member of the Work and Social Committee, to VG Nett.

“It’s as simple as taking an exam where you supply a number instead of a name. After applications are submitted, you will then be able to go back to the number and get contact information and call the person into the interview. There are certainly several ways to do this,” said Ropstad.

He admits that it probably will not prevent discrimination completely.

“Because when they come to interview the attitudes still prevail. But this will ensure that more people will be able to schedule an interview, and in turn be viewed in the same way as other workers,” he said.

Robert Eriksson (FRP), head of the Work and Social Committee, does not think Ropstad’s proposal is the best solution.

“I am skeptical. The fact that one should try to cheat the system, and have people come into the interview through anonymous job applications, does not change the attitudes of employers. What is needed is a change in the employer’s attitude,” he said to VG Nett.

“I understand that it’s easy to think of hocus-pocus solutions by interfering with quotas and anonymous job applications, but I do not think it solves the bigger problem. I think it is very important for your employer to see who is seeking the job, so that they can obtain good references on them. You do not solve this with the hocus-pocus, but by systematically going in and changing the attitudes of employers.”

Akhtar Chaudhry (SV), says he has not experienced such discrimination, but he knows that it happens. He will not reject the proposal flat-out, but is not sure if it’s a good idea.

“I do not really, because it implies that we have given up. But this is so important that I do not exclude it,” he said to VG Nett.

He believes there are several other good options.

“We must, for example, look at the legislation. The researchers behind the report suggests that if a high proportion of applicants have a majority background, then the employer must justify why it is so. In addition, we must appeal to the appointment of committees, where both unions and employers sit, to take their share of responsibility,” he said.

Arnfinn H. Midtbøen at the Institute for Social Research, one of the researchers behind the study, said the proposal is interesting.
“Among other things, the Netherlands and France have done this in the wake of this type of research, and it is not unnatural that it is happening. It could just be a problem of there being barrier between the application and being called into an interview over people’s heads,” he said.
He has not seen how it is functioning in countries that have tried it out, but says there may be some practical challenges.
“For example, one must determine whether it should apply to all industries or only the public sector. It is interesting, but we should look at whether there has been some reviews of how it has worked in other countries first,” he says.

Source: VG

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