Non-western name already becomes hurdle for employment in secondary school

Non-western name already becomes hurdle for employment in secondary school
Credit: Belga

Non-western names are a hurdle for finding a job in the regular labour market, however, Belgian research has shown that pupils as young as those in secondary school also experience this discrimination.

Young people with a non-western name are 4.28 times more likely not to find a job, according to research from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) conducted within the framework of the YOUCA Action Day, when secondary school pupils work for one day and donate their wages to support youth projects worldwide.

“This is certainly partly due to the sound of their name,” said VUB Master’s student Céline Martens, who questioned teachers within this framework and examined 1,563 cases based on figures compiled by YOUCA, including 302 cases of pupils with non-western sounding names.

She found that the existing discrimination in the regular labour market against people with “foreign-sounding” names also affects those of a younger age. Research showed that these pupils are less likely to be employed by the government, in the private sector, by an organisation or a private individual than pupils with a western sounding name.

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Having a non-western name also affects other, more indirect support systems and other mechanisms that can lead to employment.

“According to previous research, people with a migrant background are less likely to have access to valuable resources and information about jobs in their social network and have fewer people in their network who have the power to offer jobs,” Martens said.

The teachers she questioned also stated that students with a large and work-active network find jobs more quickly and easily than students with a small or work-active network, while those who have a student job or an internship are also better-equipped for the labour market.

“Not coincidentally, these are almost all factors that are less present for pupils with a migrant background, pupils from a disadvantaged environment and pupils in BSO directions,” which is a practical form of education in which the pupil is taught to practise a specific profession in addition to general education.

Far-reaching efforts needed

In her recommendations, Martens stressed that YOUCA should continue to work on sensitising employers and developing a contact point for discrimination and that more generally, employers should be made aware of the issue on an ongoing basis.

“Because there is still a lot of ignorance about this and little research has been conducted, it is important to increase knowledge and understanding by means of information, support and training,” Martens said.

“Both the government and civil society organisations need to make far-reaching efforts to take steps in reducing inequality and discrimination.”

Martens found that other factors out of the pupil’s control, such as the socio-economic status of pupils, also play a role in how likely they are to be employed, but that other factors that pupils have more control over, such as the motivation, self-confidence and discipline they show are also key to finding a job.

“In total, I was able to extract 19 factors from my research, which can have an influence on whether or not a student finds a job.”

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