Spotlight: Research on Ethnic discrimination in the Dutch labor market

Finding a job is a struggle for everyone, but for some people more than others. At least, that is precisely what Bram Lancee, associate professor of Sociology at the UvA, reveals in his recent work on ethnic inequality in the labour market. 

In a large-scale field experiment, Lancee sent 4,200+ fictitious applications to real-life job offers across a variety of professions, in order to investigate ethnic discrimination in the Dutch job market. The results were striking: candidates with a Dutch-sounding last name were more likely to be called back for a follow-up interview than their counterparts with an implied immigrant background. In fact, the study shows that people of Turkish, Moroccan or Antillean descent in particular, notably had up to a 40% lower chance of being called back. This occurred regardless of the content of the resume. As a matter of fact, Lancee’s study also refutes the common misconception that disclosing more personal information on one’s curriculum vitae can reduce the effect of discrimination. [1]

This finding was also corroborated by another research study conducted by Lancee around the same time. In this second project, Lancee and his team of researchers chose to focus on hiring discrimination against Turkish minorities specifically, comparing the situation in the Netherlands with that of Germany. While both countries share a fairly similar Turkish immigration history, they seem to differ in the degree of employment discrimination that young Turkish job seekers face during hiring processes. Indeed, the findings provide empirical evidence to suggest that the situation might be even worse here in the Netherlands than it is in Germany. There, Turkish applicants are “only” 5% less likely to be called back than equally-qualified candidates coming from a majority background, compared with 15% in the Netherlands. [2]

All in all, those findings demonstrate that the Netherlands still has a long way to go in terms of fighting discrimination at the hiring level, never mind what happens once a candidate gets the chance to actually start their job in the workplace. This is all the more alarming when we consider that unequal access to the professional sphere poses a real challenge to the integration of ethnic minorities in our society.  

This is precisely what the Meet Your Mentor (MYM) programme hopes to address at the university level. This programme was initiated by the UvA’s Executive Board, in collaboration with the Chief Diversity Officer team and will be launched on 26 November. Dutch third-year bachelor’s students and master’s students from a migration background and/or first-generation students are given the opportunity to be matched with a professional in their field who can share best practices. The initiative won an award from the Dutch Ministry of Labour for its commitment to ending discrimination in the labor market. Check it out here!

For more information on the topic of discrimination in the labour market, here are a couple of additional resources (in Dutch)–

From the Ministry of Social Affairs & Employment (Ministerie Sociale Zaken & WerkGelegenheid):

From the Ministry of Social & Cultural Affairs (Ministerie Sociaal & Cultureel Planbureau): 

From the Social and Economic Council (SER – Sociaal-Economische Raad):

[1] Lancee, B., Thijssen, C., Coenders, M. (2019). Etnische discriminatie op de Nederlandse arbeidsmarkt: Verschillen tussen etnische groepen en de rol van beschikbare informatie over sollicitanten. Mens en maatschappij, 94(2), 141–176.

[2] Lancee, B., Thijssen, L., Veit, S., Yemane,R.  (2019). Discrimination against Turkish minorities in Germany and the Netherlands: field experimental evidence on the effect of diagnostic information on labour market outcomes. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 1–18.

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