Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Race Discrimination In Hiring Part III

Continuing on from Friday’s post, the following speaks for itself:

Letter to the Editor — Lee Hwok Aun and Muhammed Abdul Khalid

NOV 6 — Dear Sir

Your headline, “Malaysian employers practise racial bigotry, study shows” (November 2nd, 2012), grossly misrepresents our study. It is unfortunate that you projected a sensationalised, emotive and reckless headline that vastly deviates from our objective, methodical and dispassionate work.

The article is based on an abstract of our study, and fairly accurately conveys our main findings and conclusions. The article even notes that “they said their data does not directly show the moti[ve] of the racial discrimination in the hiring process based on the experiment they had conducted.”

And yet you have made motive the focal point of the headline, giving a completely false impression of our study. Nowhere in our abstract, nor even in the article, is bigotry mentioned. To insert “bigotry” in the headline is irresponsible and unacceptable.

Furthermore, the Bahasa translation of the same article, “Majikan di Malaysia lebih berminat mengambil pekerja Cina berbanding Melayu”, reasonably captures the crux of our study. How could the headlines of identical articles be worlds apart? We raised strong objections to the headline of the original English article, which appeared before we presented our seminar. Have those objections been implicitly acknowledged in the publication of the Bahasa translation? If the Bahasa headline can be made precise, why can’t the English headline be amended accordingly?

We have conducted and publicised our research to bring about a more informed and level-headed understanding of a very contentious and difficult subject. We urge you to report our findings and generate public debate in a manner that accurately represents our work.

Yours sincerely,

Lee Hwok Aun

Muhammed Abdul Khalid

* Note: The Malaysian Insider stands by the headline of the story in question.

You can read the original article here.


  1. Very common studies overseas using dummy cvs, we need more.


  2. Zuo De here.

    SAD is all i can say.

  3. Two stupid academics looking for reasons to denigrate malay students/workers.

    Why dont they issue questionnaires to the companies. What is your preference for race? 1. Malay, 2, Chinese or Indian. Simple.
    IF so why?

    Which universities do your prefer?
    Which universities you will not hire?

    If everything being equal which race would you hire? If so why?

    Lets hear it from the cow's mouth.

    Trying to form an opinion with so many variables involved is impossible. It only shows these two academics are incompetent and not likely to be hired by any companies...hehe.

    With their studies as it is you are left wondering is it race? Is it English? Is it religion? Is it universities? Is it Chinese bigotry?

    For the stupid academics information, if you are a Malay and you apply to GLCs which are run by Malays, you will be most likely to be rejected because all these GLC give biasiswa to the best Malay brains already! That is why Malays will be rejected. They may hire Chinese for some marketing purpose. See how a little bit of knowledge is dangerous?

    GLCs reject Malays!...bwahaha.. idiots.

    Some Chinese employers do not have quality. They therefore cannot afford to hire quality Malays. They prefer cincai and kaotim culture.

    From the answers then the appropriate legislation can be enacted. If its racism, we can enact anti racism laws.

    You dont have to look at graduates. Indian restaurants pay very low slaves salary that they cannot attract locals.

    So they beg to bring in poor workers from other countries.

    The solution is high wage laws so that these Indian would be restaurant owners have to wash their own dish instead of hiring poor foreign people and being the cause of social problems.

    If wage are high enough, Chinese cannot exploit poor Indon workers to destroy our rainforests. Let the Chinese cut their own palm oil like Malay Felda settlers.

    If UMNO allow them, they would all want to be tokeys and capitalists to society detriment. UMNO President have to be tough with these immigrants.

    1. They didn't ask the companies directly for a very, very simple reason - the answers will be statistically biased, and there's no way to figure out the extent of that bias. No company can publicly admit they screen job applicants for race (potential legal liability).

      Which is why this study, and many others before it, focused on teasing out discrimination via a double blind experiment. What people "do" often reveals far more than what people "say".

      BTW, GLCs were not included in the study - as you note, they don't generally have to advertise, hence no resumes were sent to GLCs under this research.

    2. I should add, all the variables included in this study have been collectively subjected to probit regression analysis, and thus have probabilities estimated for each one. You don't have to "wonder" which one is more important - it's all quantified.

    3. Couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks, hishamh. Yes, a strength of this method is that we observe real decisions, not declared intentions or attitudes (which would be the survey route). And with econometrics, we can actually control for many variables. Not to say surveys are unimportant, indeed they complement our study well with information we did not obtain. One clarification point: we did apply to GLCs, but the sample was tiny: 5 out of 687 (the total number of companies for which we got data). GLCs advertised very few engineering and accounting/finance jobs on jobstreet and jobsdb over the job application period of our study (Aug-Dec 2011).

    4. ProperStudy: Amidst your tirade you actually make some sense on one issue - absorption of top Malay graduates into GLCs, which we can extend to Malay companies in general. It is plausible that Malay-owned companies (as noted, our GLC sample is minute) receive many applications from Malay scholars and overseas graduates, and the study's resumes cannot compete against them. (No marketing jobs involved, by the way, so Chinese preference would not be for customer service - another good point, though not directly related to the study) This could explain the low callback rate we find for Malays applying to Malay-controlled companies. Hence it is Malay local graduates in particular that are discriminated against. So the researchers kind of agree with you. Now you call them stupid; does that make you kind of stupid? Of course not.

    5. Hwok Aun, thanks for the clarification on GLCs.

      With respect to Chinese preference and the non-marketing aspect, I can think of a few scenarios in engineering where having Chinese language proficiency would be an advantage, even if not directly "customer-facing".

      The presumption here is that these engineering companies are producing goods for final consumption (B2C).

      But if they are mostly producing intermediates, or are manufacturing on contract or to customer spec (OEM or ODM i.e. B2B), then in essence the engineering and marketing functions are indelibly intertwined because engineers will be talking to engineers, rather than talking to non-expert consumers.

      Most marketing people in this line that I've met either have an engineering background themselves, or bring their engineering experts along on marketing calls.

  4. It is funny how fast some people rubbish research findings when it doesn't suit their perception. Whether it is a conspiracy to denigrate Malay workers or plot to demonize Chinese employers, these are all the wrong message to take home from the results.

    1. I think the researchers dont know what they want. Do they want to emphasize the role of race bias or do they want find out how the best way to be called to an interview.

      For example, how does the dummy differentiate between Chinese and Malays? Just by the name or inclusive of a photo which is more likely.

      A photo of a Malay man wearing ketayap ala PAS would most like not be called even by Malay company unless its Al Arqam or such companies. Is that surprise? No of course not. A pretty Malay girl in jacket with long hair and attractive smile would most likely be called by mat salleh MNC compared to a black wearing head covered Malay woman.

      See even among Malays there are many biases involved. I doubt any MNC would reject a pretty Malay girl with or without head covered as long as they got 3.8 pointers. A smile is important. That will get you through any selection process.

      Chinese preference for Chinese is not surprising or an issue.

      What is more important is for UMNO and the Malays to create conducieve environment for a technological society.
      And this means stopping the destruction of rainforests with low paying jobs.

      This means increasing minimum pay. This means putting money in science not in financial paper juggling. The whole system as it is reward paper juggling, financial products that does not create wealth except for the investment bankers.

      So do you want your sons/daughters to be billionaires? Better take accountancy or business management.

      How is the above related to the research? Simple, we create the environment we want and not depend on the Chinese migrants. They have their interest and the Malays have their interests to fulfil Merdeka aspirations.

      Without the right regulations it has become a laissez economy which the Chinese has exploited to the detriment of the native Malays and bumiputeras.

      From migrating with nothing on their backs the Chinese have become slave owners, hundreds of thousands toiling in hot plantations or polluting factories.

      A more recent study that shows that Chinese entrepreneurs used polluting and dirty factories was published in the NST.

      Now that study is more relevant. If only UMNO can read and act then demonising natural Chinese employers instinct would never be an issue. Why because Malays will be the employers themselves. And if you dress right for the photos, you are sure to be called for interview.

      That I guarantee from experience..hehe

    2. I'm not going to comment about your latter comments, because I don't disagree with most of it.

      However, the value of economic research such as this is to confirm or disprove conventional wisdom, and to provide guidance for policy design.

      There have been quite a few people who have said that this study says nothing new, and everybody knows that there is discrimination in hiring. But it is one thing to believe something happens, and another to confirm that it is true, and even more crucially, quantify the dimensions of that discrimination. That last point is important for looking at remedial policies.

      BTW, gender discrimination is at least as great as race discrimination, which is why in this study, all the job applications sent were male.

  5. hisham, i paste below from the first part, i dont quite understand how they come up with this conclusion/observation. How anyone know the candidate is good in chinese but not english solely from the resume?

    "Chinese language proficiency matters more than English (in fact it appears to be the single most important determining factor, apart from race), and the effect is stronger in engineering jobs;"

    1. Basically, stating your language proficiency is a standard part of the resume. Just to make sure, the researchers varied the resumes with good/bad English in the cover letters.