A study by the Research Unit of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR) has proven for the first time that young people with a migrant background are the victims of discrimination in the allocation of training positions. A correspondence test with around 3,600 applications demonstrates that students with a Turkish name are considerably less likely to be invited for an interview when they apply for an apprenticeship compared to students with a German name. In order to prevent discrimination, the SVR Research Unit recommends an anonymous application process and a higher level of cross-cultural training at the company level.
Berlin, March 26, 2014 - When applying for an apprenticeship, young people with a migrant background have poorer prospects, even if they hold the same qualifications. They have to send off many more applications to be invited for an interview compared to candidates without a migrant background. The study of the SVR Research Unit used a correspondence test to prove for the first time that there is still no guarantee of non-discriminatory access to dual-system training in Germany. The project Discrimination on the Training Market was funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung.
For the study, applications were sent to around 1,800 companies across Germany for two professional positions that require training: a car mechatronics technician and an office management assistant. In each case, two applications were sent from equally well-qualified male candidates - one with a Turkish name and one with a German name. An evaluation of the response to the fictitious applications showed that to receive an invitation to interview, a candidate with a German name must write an average of five applications, whereas the figure for an applicant with a Turkish name is seven. For an apprenticeship in automotive mechatronics, the level of discrimination is more pronounced: a candidate with a Turkish name must send off approximately 1.5 times as many applications as someone with a German name. For an apprenticeship in office administration, 1.3 times as many applications are needed. "It seems that discrimination does not occur to the same extent in all sectors of the economy," explains Dr. Jan Schneider, head of the SVR Research Unit and author of the study. "The size of a company is also an important factor with respect to the level of inequality. The rate of discrimination in small companies with fewer than six employees is significantly higher than in medium and large companies."
The effects of unequal treatment can be severe. "Wherever there is discrimination, companies that offer training are losing out on suitable candidates. In the medium term, this could threaten the existence of a secure skills base," says Schneider. But the consequences for individuals can also be problematic and very serious in terms of integration. "If young people with a migrant background receive repeated rejections whenever they submit an application, this can lead to resignation and tendencies of withdrawal," Schneider adds.
There are many reasons why applicants with a foreign-sounding name are the victims of discrimination, including often unconscious associations, judgments based on stereotypes, and negative expectations stemming from certain reservations. For instance, companies may assume that customers are less likely to accept trainees with a migrant background. For many small and medium-sized enterprises, issues concerning 'risk minimization' also play a central role: if people believe that the training is more likely to be cancelled or they suspect difficulties in the area of team integration, this can reduce the prospects of candidates with a migrant background in particular. "Expectations, attitudes, prejudices, and projections provide fertile breeding ground for discrimination when it comes to the logic behind professional selection," says Schneider.
In order to prevent discrimination and to create equal opportunities on the training market, the SVR Research Unit has developed a series of recommendations. These take into account key findings from research into professional training and discrimination, as well as tried-and-tested approaches from practice. The recommendations are mainly aimed at business and professional chambers, but also schools, civil society, and the world of politics. In order to prevent discrimination, there is a need to raise awareness among CEOs, HR managers, and trainers. The development of intercultural competence is only rarely an integral part of training for aspiring trainers today. Making applications anonymous is a vital step toward reducing discrimination in the hiring process, but small businesses in particular often lack the human and financial resources to carry out an anonymous application process. An affordable IT solution should be developed to promote the widespread use of anonymous applications. That would make things much easier, especially for small businesses. Furthermore, schools and businesses should collaborate more closely in order to put young people in contact with employers. As things stand, more than two thirds of companies that offer training in Germany still do not have apprentices with a migrant background. Practice days and short internships are a chance for such individuals to demonstrate their skills and get "a foot in the door."
"Every case of discrimination is a failed opportunity for participation, and that is counterproductive for integration," says Schneider. "However, it is also in the financial interest of businesses to avoid discrimination. Given the current shortage of skills, companies have to draw on the full potential of their candidates more than ever when it comes to securing a young generation of employees."