Muslim French citizens face job discrimination compared to their Christian peers who receive two-and-a-half times more opportunities with equal qualifications, concluded a new research conducted by Stanford political science professor David Laitin.
Published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study concluded that a Christian citizen with an African heritage is two-and-a-half times more likely to get called for a job interview than an equally qualified Muslim citizen with the same ethnic background.
The study was said to be the first to identify religion - rather than race or geography – as the source of discrimination in France. Laitin expressed hopes that the study would help improve policies in France, where data about people's religious and ethnic backgrounds aren't collected by the government.
“Without that information, it's impossible to understand and fix situations where citizens are being discriminated against,” Laitin was quoted as saying in an article published by Stanford News.
Co-authored by Claire Adida from the University of California-San Diego and Marie-Anne Valfort from Sorbonne University, Laitin analyzed data from a survey of more than 500 Senegalese Christians and Muslims living in France in 2009. They found that second-generation Muslim households made about $500 less a month than similar Christian families.
The professor along with other academics designed a test with three fictional candidates of French nationality applying for the same position with an advanced secondary education and several years of experience.
The names on the resumes reflected different religious and national backgrounds.
"Marie Diouf" posed as a French-Senegalese with a Christian given name, while "Khadija Diouf" appeared to be a French-Senegalese with a Muslim given name.
Each competed against a third candidate, "Aurélie Ménard," whose name sounded like that of a typical descendant of a well-established French family with no assumed religion. (Forcing a comparison between Khadija and Marie would have run the risk of tipping employers off to the test).
The resumes for the Dioufs were identical except for their first names and the addition of a few activities: Khadija had worked for Islamic Relief and was a member of a Muslim scouting group, while Marie had worked for Catholic Relief and was a member of Catholic scouts.
The researchers used the fake resumes to apply for 300 advertised job openings, making Khadija and Aurélie compete for one set of positions and Marie and Aurélie compete for another. For every 38 callbacks received by Khadija, Marie got 100 callbacks – two-and-a-half times more than Khadija.
France is the first country in Europe to have banned face veils in public, forcing fines on anyone wearing the niqab and burqa. French officials say it wasn’t an “anti-Muslim” move however a way to integrate immigrants and minorities into their culture.
Meanwhile, French far-right leader Marine Le Pen called for a ban to religious headwear “in stores, on public transport and on the streets,” in September. However, French President Francois Hollande denounced the statement saying: “Everything that tears people apart, opposes them and divides them is inappropriate, and we must apply the rules, the only rules that we know, the rules of the Republic and secularism.”
According to Laitin, the French say they believe their republican institutions are “blind to ethnicity and religion” and “that these institutions are an antidote to discrimination.”
“We can now tell them that the results of our work show that the society is not blind to religion and that their refusal to collect data will permit this discrimination to continue. Hiding behind the veil of republicanism is not a solution to the issue of discrimination in France,” Laitin said as quoted by Stanford News.
Stating that the causes of religious discrimination in France and the rest of Europe has become his major concern, Laitin said he wanted his research to help inform the debate over cultural diversity and nationalism.
"Just by finding discrimination doesn't tell us what the remedy is," Laitin said. "But we might be able to find what set of policies does better for social integration. I don't want to say the French have failed with republicanism. But it's clear they have not realized their ideals."