This is shocking, but not really surprising.
The study, titled Discrimination in Recruitment, was carried out between March and October of last year. Researchers sent out pairs of matched CVs in response to 240 job adverts in
administration, lower-level accountancy positions or in retail.
The two fictitious applicants had equivalent qualifications, skills and expertise – all gained in Ireland. While one candidate had a recognisably Irish name, the other was either Asian, African or German.
Both candidates were invited for interview on 23 occasions.In 55 cases the Irish names were invited to interview and the foreign-named applicants were rejected, while in just 15 cases the minority names were called and the Irish-named were ignored.
An interesting thought experiment would be to imagine what people’s response in the Republic would be if it was demonstrated that job applicants with ‘Catholic-sounding’ names in Northern Ireland were twice as likely to be blackballed.
The irony here is that most ‘Irish’ names are English-language corruptions of Irish-language names, and therefore ‘foreign names’ themselves.
So, there is widespread discrimination against immigrants in the workplace. Who knew? Well, lots of immigrants, from what I’ve seen and heard myself, and from what I’ve been told. The favouritism in selection of candidates is coming to light now, but it’s a reflection of long established but informal and unspoken practices in which power and influence in the workplace is consolidated among Irish workers to the advantage of Irish managers and owners. These managers tend to establish closer relationships, often to the point of friendship, with other Irish people further down the firm hierarchy, to the exclusion of immigrants.
From the point of view of the manager or owner, there are many apparent benefits. First, it’s a cheap way of achieving a degree of staff loyalty. Second, it clouds a sense of class antagonism that might otherwise appear obvious- if I know my boss is looking out for me because we have a common bond, I have less to fear from him or her. Third, the term ‘obscene supplement’ might be too extreme, but in the ‘nod and wink’ culture to Irish business, there are often things that need to be done to meet business objectives that are neither ethical or legal. The closer the bond I have with those who work for me, the easier it is for me to get these things done. Since I believe an immigrant is unlikely to understand this culture, being more likely to stick to the letter of the law, and since I don’t want to have to explain myself, since by explaining myself I’d be revealing what I’m really doing, I really need someone who understands me completely.
I’ve seen many Irish people at work speak to immigrants with a jarring degree of condescension, as though immigrants were a strange breed of overgrown children. Immigrants who assert their rights in the face of apparent discrimination in the workplace often get shafted by collusion between Irish people who know just what needs to be done, say nothing, no need to even wink, in order to circumvent formally established policy.
The report called for a number of measures to help root out recruitment discrimination.
These include providing more information and guidelines for both employers and workers on what the equality legislation permits, and introducing random audits of hiring practices, insisting employers keep all records of applications for 12 months.
I have mentioned before the case of the supermarket chain that probably employs a majority of immigrants in many of its shops, but advertises openly, confident that the tagline will have widespread appeal, that ‘The difference is – we’re Irish’. It’s not merely a case of implementing the measures outlined. There is a wider problem of politics, culture, and class.
Immigrants are generally excluded from mainstream political discourse. When they are included, it is in terms of their importance as factors of production in the Irish economy. That said, it is worth pointing out many of the multinationals operating in Ireland, on which the economy depends, are sustained by immigrant labour power, an inconvenient fact omitted from the propagated narrative of the last ten years of Irish prosperity through Irish genius. When people talk about an ‘economic migrant’, they don’t imagine that this person has a life beyond whatever function it is they serve. As I noted the other day, there appeared to be some interest in the fact that so many of them had stayed once the recession kicked in. One is inclined to paraphrase Groucho Marx, “I didn’t know you fellas had kids”.
In the parliamentary system, TDs have no need to represent immigrants, since the vast majority have no right to vote in Dáil elections (and I’m guessing most immigrants think it absurd to contact a member of parliament to get a drain unblocked), even though they constitute more than 10% of people living here. The two main parties are sustained by a discourse of national populism, in which the interests of what is referred to as the Irish people -regardless of class- are foremost.
For the men and women of Easter Week, achieving our freedom encompassed their practical idealism and their faith in a better future for this country shaped by their fellow Irishmen and Irishwomen. The 1916 leaders who were laid to rest here gave their lives for an Ireland that would no longer be a colony protecting the interests of an imperial power, but a vibrant and sovereign country in which we are privileged to live today. That proud legacy is our inspiration as we continue to strive to build that Republic.
The patriotism, the commitment and the spirit of the men and women of Easter Week should be an inspiration to us all. Everyone knows that this country is battling the effects of a severe global economic downturn. But we should retain that same confidence in the capacity of the Irish people to weather the storm.
Irishmen and Irishwomen. The capacity of the Irish people. The other 550,000 people within the state’s borders shall not figure here.
At these most difficult of times, the Government has made difficult decisions.
They are decisions that affect the lives of our people.
Our people. Got that? But here’s a translated copy of the road safety manual and a Meath jersey. Don’t say we don’t look after you, stranger.