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‘Hiring discrimination against older applicants is worse in Europe than in the United States’

The good news is that there’s less ethnic hiring discrimination in Europe’s labour market. The bad news? Applicants with disabilities and older applicants still face the same unequal treatment. 

Jasper Spanjaart on January 14, 2022 Average reading time: 3 min
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‘Hiring discrimination against older applicants is worse in Europe than in the United States’

Let’s start with the good news: hiring discrimination based on race and national origin has significantly decreased in Europe. According to new research entitled The State of Hiring Discrimination by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics, on average, ethnic hiring discrimination in Europe declined by approximately 23 percentage points between 2006 and 2020.

Since 2005, researchers from all over the world have sent in over 900,000 fictitious applications, spread across 306 correspondence experiments.

The research, by all means, is as extensive as they come. Since 2005, researchers from all over the world have sent in over 900,000 fictitious applications, spread across 306 correspondence experiments (or observation units), in response to actual job vacancies. The newly-published study authored by Louis Lippens, Siel Vermeiren and Stijn Baert is an accumulation of all of those 306 experiments.

Europe discriminates older workers 18% more than US

While Europe indeed proved to discriminate less on the grounds of ethnicity — results in terms of equal treatment based on age are far less positive. In Europe, older applicants are subject to approximately 49% fewer positive call-backs on average. The United States, meanwhile, has approximately 31% fewer positive call-backs on average. In essence, that means that Europe discriminates its older applicants 18% more than their American counterparts.

In Europe, older applicants are subject to approximately 49% fewer positive call-backs on average. The United States, meanwhile, has approximately 31% fewer positive call-backs on average.

But that’s not all. The researchers found that the ages in the treatment groups of European correspondence experiments range from 37 to 56 years. While the ages used in the American studies are generally higher, ranging from 55 to 66 years. “It makes these findings all the more exceptional”, the researchers say.

“European countries might then be able to learn from the approach applied in the United States to determine appropriate public policies.”

“This finding is in line with the historic employment rates of 55- to 64-year-olds in the respective countries”, the researchers add. “Future studies could look into the specific mechanisms that drive these regional differences. European countries might then be able to learn from the approach applied in the United States to determine appropriate public policies.”

‘Diversity should have a diverse interpretation’

Lastly, the researchers note that prior hiring discrimination examinations have focused heavily on race and national origin — not on those who are equally treated unequal. Take applicants with disabilities, who are, on average 44% less likely to receive a positive response to a job application. “The unequal treatment of applicants with disabilities, older applicants, and less physically attractive applicants is equally problematic”, researchers say.

“Our meta-analysis underlines that diversity in the labour market should also have a diverse interpretation.”

Perhaps time to change the way we interpret diversity, the researchers say. “Public and private diversity policies, such as outreach campaigns and diversity training. As well as other remedial measures should also focus on candidates from these minority groups. In other words, our meta-analysis underlines that diversity in the labour market should also have a diverse interpretation.”

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Jasper Spanjaart

Jasper Spanjaart

Editor-in-Chief and Writer at ToTalent.eu
Editor-in-Chief and writer for European Total Talent Acquisition platform ToTalent.eu.
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