Malaysiakini Letter

In defence of our jobs study methodology

Centre for Governance and Political Studies  |  Published:

LETTER | On behalf of the team at the Centre for Governance and Political Studies (Cent-GPS), we wish to thank everyone who has come out to support our recent study and its findings. 

Our heart goes out to the many people who have shared their personal stories of being discriminated against and not being given their rightful opportunities. 

Certain emails, however, have highlighted serious concerning stories of discrimination and abuse by their employer, and our team is working hard to prioritise these few individuals and provide them with the help they need to right the wrongs.

We wish to also thank the few who have written about the methodology of our study. Your high analysis and critique is an example of what our democracy stands for; that everything is questioned, and that nothing gets left unturned.

The primary concern that people have about this study is that it is part of some political agenda. That the findings were measured to fit the racial politics of a few groups. We can assure you, it is not. 

This study was first mooted late last year. Our team had been working on it for the past few months. There was no way we could have known that the recent by-elections were to happen or would result in the political pacts that it did.

It also comes as a surprise to our team that people think this study is meant to cater to a Chinese vs Malays racial narrative. Anyone who attended our press conference or read the report will know that, if anything, our report denied Malays the idea that they are the most marginalised in our community. 

Previous studies had only looked at the Malay and Chinese variable; to see which of the two were most discriminated in the private sector. 

Our study included Indian candidates, and it showed that they, for both genders, were worse off. Everyone seems so focused on the lack of opportunities given to the fictitious Malay candidates, they forgot that Thivakar (the Indian male) got the worse rate of callbacks.

Online, a few people have been sharing pictures of the résumés we supposedly had sent to employers, pointing out that the qualifications and educational background of the candidates were different, and that this difference was the cause for the variations in callbacks. 

Their point is that there should have been strict control of the content of these résumés to be identical. We disagree. This study was meant to evaluate whether certain candidates would even get offered an interview when they have similar qualifications. 

An interview offer is not equivalent to a job offer; it is not a zero-sum game. Employers are not restricted to call just one candidate. Employers, especially when presented with similarly qualified candidates, are free to call these candidates to see which of them would best fit the job. 

The problem is that candidates such as Thivakar and Kavita were not even given the opportunity to prove themselves and make their case.

Did the candidates list down participation in different local colleges in Malaysia? Yes, they did, and we actually listed real courses onto their résumés to convince the employers that these were real candidates.

This study was never meant to test whether a candidate would get a job. This study was about whether all candidates would get a call for interview if one of them did. 

Close to 250 companies called Nicola (female Chinese) to schedule an interview, and yet Thivakar (male Indian) only got 20. Calling Nicola for an interview does not mean that employers were not allowed to call Thivakar for an interview as well, especially considering that Thivakar and Nicola had similar qualifications and experience.

The first step to fixing an issue is recognising there is one in the first place. The reality can sometimes be scary for some, but we need to start questioning ourselves if our first response to these findings is to point fingers. 

This study was meant to be a conversation starter, and we are happy that it has become one. 

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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