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They get others to do their discriminatory hiring (Today 3 May)

They get others to do their discriminatory hiring
05:55 AM May 03, 2010
by Esther Ng

SINGAPORE – It is an open secret in the recruitment industry that employers do not want to hire those aged 35 and above. They also have other biases, like wanting to hire only young, pretty women, or the perception that some ethnic groups are more prone to absenteeism.

These employers know that placing prejudicial job advertisements will land them in trouble. So they hire others, like staffing consultants, to do their dirty work – the filtering of “unsuitable” candidates – for them.

While some consultants MediaCorp spoke to deny such practices, others admit they usually accede to their clients’ requests. Clients come from all industries, from small and medium enterprises to multinational companies.

Can more be done to do away with such discriminatory practices? In the last three-and-a-half years, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment (Tafep) – made up of the Singapore National Employers Federation, the National Trades Union Congress and the Ministry of Manpower – have been urging employers to look beyond age, gender and race when hiring.

Tafep said it has been instrumental in reducing discriminatory job advertisements in the print media from 20 per cent to just 1 per cent. But there is only so much an official body can do.

The reality is some employers remain biased, and it is not in the interest of recruitment consultants to change such mindsets when they face stiff competition from rivals for business.

A recruitment consultant who only wanted to be known as Alvin, said: “If all four candidates from four different agencies are equally good, the client will take the candidate from the agency which charges the lowest commission.”

Staffing firm Adecco South-east Asia’s regional director Lynne Ng and Mr David Ang, executive director of Singapore Human Resource Institute, told MediaCorp that companies that turn down discriminatory clients will lose business.

However, Mr Ang said: “It might be tough in the beginning but over time, the staffing company will build itself an honourable name and get more business.”

Ms Ng noted that discrimination in recruitment is becoming “less” of a problem, although it is still “evident in places”, often through ignorance.

“Companies may request for someone of a particular ethnicity or age group – without clearly thinking through if this makes sense or whether it is ethical,” she said.

Ms Ng suggested heavy fines for companies making discriminatory requests, on top of measures to educate employers.

Kelly Services Asia-Pacific’s senior vice-president, Mr Dhirendra Shantilal, said consultants should clarify the rationale behind any preferences that may appear discriminatory, and provide alternative solutions to the employer.

Some consultants do try to convince clients to be a bit more “flexible” in their selection criteria, especially when a candidate is suitably qualified.

Mr Lim, a recruitment consultant who spoke to MediaCorp on the condition that his full name and company are not revealed, said some clients may then agree to interview the applicant, but others may not.

“Or some tell me, ‘Alright, I’ll interview him, but if he gets the job, I’ll pay him a lower salary,” he said.

Some tell the consultants that they only want to hire young, pretty Chinese females as receptionists or administrative assistants.

“There’s a perception that only females are suitable. This is rather sexist because way back in the past, clerks or receptionists were men,” said Mr Lim.

Last year, 35 per cent of applications he got for these jobs were from men.

Tafep told MediaCorp that the screening of candidates based on biases were “not acceptable and unfair” to qualified candidates.

Tafep’s co-chair Halimah Yacob said: “If such practices persist or become more widespread, they undermine national efforts at building an inclusive workforce and result in a lose-lose situation for employers as well as employees.”


Copyright 2010 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

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One Response to “They get others to do their discriminatory hiring (Today 3 May)”

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