Opinion: Discrimination

POSTED: 01/25/12 11:33 AM

A large majority of manpower agencies in the Netherlands honors requests by employers who do not want Moroccan, Surinamese or Turkish temp workers. Though this form of passive discrimination is declining, currently 76.8 percent of the manpower agencies involved in a survey sociology student Anne Backer did for her master thesis at the Free University of Amsterdam still takes part in this practice that diminishes the perspective for work among ethnic minorities.
In 1986 a survey showed that all manpower agencies in the Netherlands discriminated on request. A year later the association of manpower agencies established a code that prohibited discrimination, but it did not have any meaningful effect. A survey in 1991 showed that 94 percent of the manpower agencies persistently continued with discriminatory behavior. Backer’s thesis shows a further decline to 76.8 percent – an average decline of 0.86 percent per year over the past twenty years.
To conduct her survey Backer and her research assistant Evelien Loeters set up a fake company called Call4Call. They started canvassing manpower agencies with a set script in which they indicated that they did not want temp workers of certain ethnic descent. Unfortunately, the survey did not include queries about Caribbean migrants from St. Maarten, Curacao or Aruba.
Backer discovered that Moroccans are the lowest on the totem pole: employers consider them unreliable and criminal. Surinamese workers are considered well-integrated, but at the same time lazy and not very good at management. (That’s a stereotype if there ever was one; Surinamese football superstar Ruud Gullit experienced negative comments about his perceived laziness from a trainer when he was playing for Feyenoord). Turks are perceived as quiet, hard working and reliable.
Backer writes in her thesis that the employment rate among non-western migrants in the Netherlands is three times as low as the rate is among native Dutch. Therefore they are already more dependent on jobs via manpower agencies. A non-western sounding name is already enough to seriously diminish the chances of getting an invitation for a job application interview.
The sociology-student writes in her thesis that employers routinely apply statistical discrimination by attributing group-characteristics to everyone belonging to that group. From this perspective, all Surinamese are lazy and all Moroccans are criminals.
We find this type of discrimination also back in St. Maarten, where quite some employers maintain that locals don’t want to work. This thesis finds some support in a government publication dating back to 2007 that stated that locals in general don’t want to work in construction because they consider the work too heavy.
But the words in general are obviously imperative: such a statement does not mean that all St. Maarteners consider construction work too heavy. But the idea is out there, and it affects people’s chances to get a job.
Bakker, who presented herself during her telephone interviews for her survey as Joyce Bos of the Call4Call call center, went through some remarkable experiences. On one occasion she encountered a manpower agent-owner who objected to her request not to send her Turkish candidates for a call center job. “What you are doing is discrimination. I am a Turk myself. Maybe you do not hear it in my accent, but I grew up here. There is trash everywhere, in the Netherlands, in Turkey, and also in Morocco.”
Other manpower agents reacted more subtle. For instance like this: “We don’t want to discriminate, but if we send you ten people and you don‘t want nine of them is not very useful either.”
To cut a long story short: a large majority of manpower agencies will accommodate discriminatory request by employers without batting an eye. That this will bite them in their behind in the long run, does not seem to bother anyone.
It is also remarkable that this situation continues to exist, because integration of minorities is a priority of the Rutte-government. Part of that integration-process is obviously participation in the labor market. If three-quarter of manpower agencies honor discriminatory request by employers, one must fear for the chances minorities have in the regular labor market, where a non-Western looking name seems to be enough to exclude a candidate from job interviews.

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