For young people, getting a job can be very difficult. For young Muslims, it can be even harder.
The Services Manager of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Ayman Islam, says jobseekers with ‘Muslim’-sounding names face discrimination when applying for jobs.
“We actually have a highly educated group of young people but they, for whatever reason, have not been able to transition into that next phase of employment, so that’s a huge concern for us,” he said.
His claim of discrimination is supported by research. In 2012, the Australian National University conducted a study and randomly submitted more than 4000 fictional applications for entry-level jobs.
The resumes indicated that applicants attended high school in Australia and were identical except for their ethnicity. Names from five ethnicities including Anglo-Saxon, Indigenous, Italian, Chinese and Middle Eastern were used. The study found that a Middle Eastern person needed to submit 64% more applications to secure as many job interviews as the Anglo-Saxon applicants.
Islam says this discrimination is part of a more general feeling of discrimination and isolation experienced by the Australian Muslim community. “Another concern is Islamophobia, social marginalisation, belonging and identity,” he said. “Young people are questioned around aspects of their allegiance.”
Unemployment is a big issue in Calwell, especially among young people. The electorate has the highest number of Muslim residents in Victoria, as well as high rates of unemployment. The suburbs of Broadmeadows, Dallas and Jacana have the third highest rates of long-term unemployment, meaning residents have been receiving Centrelink unemployment payments for more than a year.
Ayman Islam has witnessed the problems unemployment causes. “Those issues of unemployment are creeping up and people just can’t afford utility bills or the rent for the month,” he said.
He says there’s been a rise in people applying for zakat, which is the pillar of Islam that encourages Muslims to donate 2.5% of their disposable income to the disadvantaged. The Islamic Council distributes zakat funds so Muslims in the community can pay for shelter, food, medicine and heating.
The CEO of the Victorian Arabic Social Services, Leila Alloush, says jobseekers in the area need more support and job opportunities.
“The Arabic and Muslim community in the north [of Melbourne] needs a special targeted employment program and incentive for employers to encourage them to participate in the workforce.
“We want to get the community out of poverty into being contributors to the economy, not recipients of welfare… We want them to be effective citizens of this country,” Alloush said.
Some efforts are being made to address the situation. The Victorian government, for example, is trialling ‘blind’ job applications to address discrimination in hiring practices. Details including names, ages and genders will be removed from job applications. The program, Recruit Smarter, will be rolled out over 18 months in the public and private sectors.