A new study by Malaysia's Centre for Governance and Political Studies (Cent-GPS) has found an obvious difference in the call-back rates between Chinese, Indian, and Malay candidates for entry-level jobs in the private sector in Malaysia.

Before diving into the results, here's a recap of the methodology used in the report titled Racism in Recruitment: a study on racial bias for entry-level jobs in Malaysia.

The research team sent out 3,829 job applications to over 500 jobs, featuring seven candidates for every job vacancy:

  1. Nur Sakinah Yusof, a Malay woman with hijab
  2. Zulaikha Asyiqin Rashidi, a Malay woman without hijab
  3. Kavita Muthusamy, an Indian woman
  4. Nicola Yeoh, a Chinese woman
  5. Thivakar Gunasegaran, an Indian man
  6. Gabriel Liew, a Chinese man
  7. Muhammad Saddiq Azmi, a Malay man

In the resumés of all seven candidates, all had the same degree, same CGPA, a Second Class Upper, they all graduated from a local private university, they all had a three-month internship and they all can communicate in English, Malay and Mandarin.

However, the catch (to identify the impact of ethnicity) was that the passport pics to the resumés were of the exact same man and woman. The candidates all had the same physical features but were applied makeup to look the ethnicity and name provided on their resumé.

The seven candidates are pictured in the tweet below (and in the lead image above):

The passport pics to the resumés were taken from the same person. The candidates all had the same physical features but were applied makeup to look the ethnicity of their resumé. Literally, the only difference between these seven resumés was their names & skin color. pic.twitter.com/NpvGOCw3px

— Centre for Governance and Political Studies (@CentGPS) March 7, 2019


Results of the study

The results found that both male and female Chinese candidates obtained more job callbacks than their Malay and Indian peers combined. Of over 500 jobs, Nicola received 240 callbacks, Gabriel Liew received 179, Saddiq received 42, whilst Thivakar has a dismal callback rate of 20.

To put another way, Nicola only needs to apply to two jobs for her to get 1 callback, Nur Sakinah needs to apply to 13 jobs to get one callback, while Thivakar needs to apply to 27 jobs to get just one callback for an interview.

The other key findings of the research are:

  • All candidates listed Mandarin as "intermediate" in their resumés. Yet Nicola(55%)  and Gabriel dominated in callbacks from Mandarin-required companies, whilst Thivakar got 9%. The researchers suggested: "'Mandarin requirement' is just a smokescreen to hire Chinese candidates."
  • A Malay girl without a hijab gets more callbacks than a Malay girl who wears a hijab. Zulaikha (who did not wear a hijab) obtained a 13% callback rate whilst Nur Sakinah obtained a 9.14% callback rate. Again, the two resumés were the same person and had the same qualifications.
  • The overall scorecard for all seven candidates is provided below:


Photos / Centre for Governance and Political Studies (Cent-GPS)