World Economy

French big businesses Discriminate in Hiring

Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri says the companies that discriminate undermine the French republic’s promise of equality.Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri says the companies that discriminate undermine the French republic’s promise of equality.

Jobseekers of North African origin still face widespread discrimination in France, with a survey released on Monday showing 30% of big businesses preferred candidates with French-sounding names.

Between April and July this year, a consulting firm commissioned by the labor ministry tested 40 businesses in six cities employing more than 1,000 people, AFP reported.

The firm sent out 3,000 applications for 1,500 jobs advertised by the 40 companies. In each case, the employer received two applications for the same job describing people with similar backgrounds, experience and qualifications. The only significant—but sometimes decisive—difference was in the applicants’ names.

The survey found that to a greater or lesser degree, 12 of the 40 companies discriminated against candidates with North African-sounding names.

When it came to interviews, for example, 47% of candidates with traditional French names got interviews, but only 36% of those with North African names were called in.

Yet the survey noted that in 71% of cases both candidates received the same treatment, whether it be positive, negative or just no response at all.

The government also cautioned that the sample was too small to generalize for all French companies. But Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri said they nevertheless undermined the French republic’s promise of equality.

“These tests, of an unprecedented scale, clearly show a striking inequality of treatment in hiring,” she said.

Manuel Valls, who last week stepped down as prime minister to launch a bid for the presidency, has spoken out about discrimination against citizens of foreign descent. The Socialist party heavyweight has denounced what he calls “spatial, social and ethnic apartheid”.

Anti-racism campaigners in France have for years campaigned for laws forcing employers to accept anonymous resumes that leave out details which might lead to discrimination.

A recent poll carried out by Harris Interactive for a federation of anti-racist groups suggested that more than 70% of people in France, Germany and Italy backed the idea of anonymous resumes.

Meanwhile, the reforms that have plunged France into strike chaos last week are aimed at simplifying and relaxing the country’s labor laws, mainly by giving individual companies greater leeway to make more decisions about hiring, firing, pay and working hours according to economic conditions, rather than being constrained by collective-bargaining procedures.

Valls believed the reforms, which would bring France’s labor model closer to those of Germany and the UK, will help lower France’s stubbornly high unemployment rate of more than 10% and kickstart an economy that has proved slow to show signs of recovery.

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