Do caste and religion influence a graduate’s employment opportunities in India’s private sector? This paper from the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies examines the prevalence of discrimination in the job application processes of modern private sector enterprises. It finds that discriminatory processes operate even at the first stage of the application process. Caste favouritism and social exclusion still exist in the labour market in today’s urban India.
What happens when college-educated Indians from the lowest caste (Dalits) and from the Muslim minority apply for jobs in the urban private sector? In this sector, which includes multinational corporations and prominent Indian companies, caste and communal discrimination are supposedly things of the past. The study examines whether employers respond differently to equally-qualified applicants with a high caste Hindu, Muslim or Dalit name.
Even among highly educated and appropriately qualified applicants attempting to enter the private sector, caste and religion proved influential in securing an invitation for an interview or written test. Private sector employers repeatedly favoured job applicants from higher caste backgrounds, and disadvantaged equally qualified low-caste and Muslim job applicants.
- Job applicants with a Dalit or Muslim name were significantly less likely to be invited for interview than equivalently-qualified high caste Hindus.
- The odds of a Dalit applicant being invited for interview were about two-thirds of the odds of a high caste Hindu applicant.
- The odds of a Muslim applicant being invited for interview were about one-third of the odds of a high caste Hindu applicant.
Discriminatory processes thus operate at the first stage in the application process, even among well-qualified university-educated Indians applying for jobs in modern private sector businesses.
- Data was not collected on who was ultimately hired for these particular jobs. However, if discrimination is evident even at this early phase of the application process, final hiring decisions are unlikely to be equitable.
- Social exclusion is not just a residue of the past clinging to the margins of the Indian economy. Nor is it limited to the less well-educated. Caste favouritism and the social exclusion of Dalits and Muslims are present in private enterprise, the most dynamic modern sector of the Indian economy.
- Indian corporations are not obliged to report the caste and religious composition of their workforces to the government. It is therefore not possible to determine the employment composition of private sector enterprises in India.