The DAP parliamentary research office has claimed there are various methodological flaws in a recent study by a think-tank which showed discrimination in the job market.
The Centre for Governance and Political Study (Cent-GPS) study, released last Thursday, showed that private sector employers have a strong bias against hiring ethnic Indian candidates, especially males.
In a statement today, DAP said it cited too few résumés (seven) in its sampling considering the number of factors being tested.
"There needs to be a controlled résumé to ensure that the experiment actually measures what is intended and is not due to some other reason. For example, as photos of the applicant were included, a controlled study should have been conducted without photos to see the differences.
"The same applies to using a series of race and gender combinations as there is no certainty as to which particular factor was the influential factor in the experiment," it said.
"Ideally, each condition should be tested with a larger sample size and with multiple conditions to control extenuating factors (for example, using various photos with different levels of attractiveness).
"By just using a handful of resumes to check on multiple factors, there is very little confidence that any one factor can have a significant influence on callback rates."
The résumés, DAP said, were also sent out to companies shown in a job portal, but no details of the companies were provided.
It added that this would not reflect reality as callbacks for jobs applied through portals rely on selection algorithms, and do not show the demographics of the companies involved – such as company size, ownership, job scope, and the type of business.
"A major omission from the methodology is the manner in which the résumés were sent out as there was no clear mention of how companies are selected other than just following what was presented by the online job portal.
"There is no indication of how often multiple résumés were sent to the same company (would a company receive all seven résumés?) and whether each of the résumés was sent to a similar set of companies with similar demographics (are all résumés sent equally to a certain number of SMEs, Bumiputera-owned companies, MNCs?).
"This is sorely lacking in the methodology (used) and opens up a lot of doubts about whether the résumés were distributed in a manner that may have skewed the results in a certain direction," the statement read.
The Cent-GPS study, DAP pointed out, could have done better by carrying out the test with a series of generic photos with a small group of individuals, rank them based on a metric system, and use the résumés and photos to represent different races, rather than have one for each gender and race only.
"The authors also failed to control the résumé design. Recruiters could have rejected the hijab-wearing candidate simply because it has pink circles which gives out a less professional outlook."
Upon scrutiny, DAP said, the candidates which were cited in the Cent-GPS as getting more callbacks had been padded up with "better qualifications" than the others.
For instance, a Chinese male, Gabriel Liew, who was said to have received more callbacks, had graduated in banking and finance from Taylor’s University and Queensland University of Technology.
His Indian persona Thivakar Gunasegaran, meanwhile, graduated in business accounting from Inti International University.
According to DAP, the study failed to take into account that the potential employer that called Liew would have seen him as having studied in a better-perceived overseas institution.
"The study makes the blanket assumption that all private tertiary institutions are equal and fails to control or account for this as a possible factor in the callback rates."
Meant to stoke racial sentiments?
DAP then chided Cent-GPS – of which Umno senator Khairul Azwan Harun (photo) is a key member – of releasing the study to stoke racial sentiments, as it tries to frame discrimination as something imposed by Chinese employers only.
Researchers highlighting that private sector employers prefer Mandarin-speaking candidates shows that the study adopts a biased view of the sector.
"There is an implicit assumption that all private sector companies are operated or owned by Chinese owners and that perception has poisoned and influenced every aspect of the report."
"It appears that the basis of this report is to reinforce stereotypical views of different ethnic groups and to further racially charged political agendas.
"We do agree that there is a problem of racism with employment in Malaysia, as noted in the quoted report by Lee Hwok Aun and Muhammed Abdul Khalid, and addressing these issues is important for the country as we move forward," the statement read.
"Dishonest studies like these do little to actually improve the current situation, but instead pander to societal fears and further worsen inter-race relations.
"Sham studies like this need to be critically interrogated and the public need to be educated better to be able to discern proper social science from faux studies that are meant to warp their worldviews."