A recent study claims to show that racial discrimination plays a prominent role in Bogota’s job market.

The study, carried out by the Racial Discrimination Observatory at the University of Andes and the campaign group Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN), involved creating fake job-seekers profiles and sending over 800 job applications to companies with open positions. The false applicants were given profiles that identified them as white, indigenous or Afro-Colombian.

The research began in April 2012 as it was time-consuming to create and send off such a large quantity of applications. Of the 825 that were sent, 125 received a call inviting them for interview. Data was collected from both the accepted and rejected false applicants for statistical analysis.

Cesar Rodriguez Garavito, director of the Observatory on Racial Discrimination, said that the researchers were able to get near laboratory-like results. He said: “We were able to isolate the factors and study those that interested us the most, including skin color.”

The false applicants that were identified as Afro-Colombian were 8% less likely to be called for an interview than the false applicants identified as white.

The results will come as a disappointment to lawmakers in Colombia, who in 2011 passed a law through the congress to criminalize racial and other types of discrimination with penalties of one to three years in prison and fines of up to $4,500 for those found guilty.

The legislative push came on the back of calls from the UN for Colombia to criminalize discrimination against Afro-Colombians. Christian Salazar, Colombia’s representative for the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR), said: “Unfortunately racial discrimination is a reality in Colombia.”

MORE: Colombia passes law to criminalize racism, discrimination

MORE: UN calls for Colombia to outlaw racial discrimination

Other areas of focus in the study were physical attractiveness. The study found that the false applications that showed physically attractive job candidates had an increased rate of interview invitation of 6%. Juan Camilo Cardenas, a professor of economics at the University of Javeriana and one of the study’s authors, said: “It’s an aberration that in Colombia employers continue to demand a photo in the resume. In the United States it would be outrageous for a company to ask for that.”

The research also indicated that those who expressed support for the LGBT community had a 4% lower chance of being called for an interview. There was no significant difference white and indigenous people’s chances of being called for interview. Those applications showing applicants with experience led to a 4% increase of interview invites.

The study’s authors did not hold back harsh judgement in its conclusions.

“These results provide strong evidence that skin color is one of the most important factors in the job application processes,” Rodriguez said.

Similar studies are now set to take place studying the labor markers of Cali , Medellin and Cartagena. The results will form part of a project to make a map of discrimination throughout the country.


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