Corporate racism

Dr Lim Mah Hui

Senior Fellow of Socio-economic and Environment Research Instute Lim Mah Hui  is at brink of bring labelled as being defined as a racist, bigot or liar. He should explain on his statement debunking Minister in-charge of Economic Planning in Prime Minister’s Department Dato’ Seri Abdul Wahid Omar’s stance for lack of opportunity is the culprit for lesser Malays in corporate sector instead of “Poor quality of workforce”.

There are evidently clear discriminatory practices against Malay graduates, job market candidates with experience, professionals or even top management aspirants. The Mole Chief Editor  Shamsul Akmar Musa Kamal’s analysis on the New Sunday Times:

Opinion

October 6, 2013

By : Shamsul Akmar |

Discrimination in the private sector

CONTENTIOUS ARGUMENT: It’s highly presumptuous to claim the private sector’s refusal to employ Bumiputeras is because of their lack of quality

THERE are several ways for  Malays/Bumiputeras to react to reports quoting economist Dr Lim Mah Hui as saying that the private sector had not been keen to employ them because they are not able and lacking in quality.

Lim, a member of the DAP-led Penang government think tank, reportedly said this when debunking Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar, who had contended that the private sector had not given much opportunity to Bumiputeras.

First, Bumiputeras can get all riled up, demand Lim to apologise and if he refuses, ostracise and label him with unsavoury tags. Or they can counter what he had said by pointing out that his statement is racist, condescending, stereotypical, a generalisation, unfounded and without basis, and unfitting to have been uttered by someone with academic credentials.

A report in an English daily on Sept 18 titled “Discrimination when hiring is rife, say job seekers” could shed light on the issue and provide points to ponder as to why Lim was so quick to conclude the issue with a condescending attitude towards Bumiputeras.

The report, among others, highlighted a study conducted by Universiti Malaya senior lecturer in development studies department Lee Hwok Aun and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia research fellow Muhammed Abdul Khalid, which showed that racial discrimination, at least, is very much prevalent in the private sector.

The report stated they were only able to conduct the study in the private sector with Lee saying the results showing Chinese applicants had an upper hand, was expected.

“I wanted to step back and examine the issue empirically and credibly,” the report quoted Lee.

The study involved the distribution of resumes of fictitious Malay and Chinese candidates to real job advertisers and comparing the number of callbacks candidates of each race got.

In his analysis, Lee was quoted as saying: “The result of the experiment showed that in the private sector, race mattered. Chinese applicants are much more likely than Malay applicants to be called for an interview. Quality also matters, but much less so.”

There are a lot of other details in the report. Suffice to say Lee, in the report, pointedly said, “Quality also matters, but much less so.”

The academic, however, had a caveat: “We cannot confidently evaluate these arguments without further study. Emphatically, we must not be hasty to blame the discrimination we detect on malevolent motives and racial stereotyping, prejudice or bigotry.”

Based on the research Lee had done, it would have been highly presumptuous on the part of Lim to make such a sweeping conclusion that the refusal of the private sector to employ Bumiputeras is because of the community’s lack of quality.

Then what may have prompted Lim to say thus? Is it because he had done a study on the subject and the study is conclusive?

Lim may want to come out and prove that his remarks were not spawned from some deep-seated anti-Malay/Bumiputera sentiment but rather from his own findings that may help enlighten the lack in quality among the Bumiputeras, including the policy makers.

While he is at it, one thing seems to be conclusive, as all three — Lim, Wahid and Universiti Malaya’s Lee — agree there is a lack of Bumiputera participation in the private sector and it is not from the lack of want on the part of the community but rather the refusal of the private sector to take them.

In short, if, all this while, it is merely suspicions or conjectures when raising issues about the lack of Bumiputera participation in the private sector, especially when such opinions may have come from the Bumiputeras themselves, now that it had come from the likes of Lim, such views can be deemed as fact.

If that is a fact, the debate now is why (there is lack of Bumiputera participation) and how (to increase their participation). If Lim’s reason is the lack of quality, then the discrimination is not discrimination as merit is of essence. But the advocates of the New Economic Policy and affirmative action will argue that quality will be achieved with opportunities.

The argument put forth by Lim about quality is contentious, especially when he pointed his fingers at the civil servants, the majority being Bumiputeras, as examples of the lack in quality and incapability in producing results. Lest he forgets, the country enjoyed a double digit growth for almost a decade until the financial crisis of 1997/98.

In other words, the affirmative action was in full measure and the civil service shaped the nation’s economic policies. The majority of the civil servants then were still Bumiputeras. For that, there is no necessity for the Bumiputeras to be apologetic for the affirmative action to the likes of Lim and others.

Then again, there will be the Malay/Bumiputera apologists who will argue that they are not against the affirmative action but rather the implementation. Their arguments are ambiguous and at best apologetic, not wanting to put forth what they actually want. The easiest way out is to say that the affirmative action had benefited only the Umnoputras.

Without doubt Umno members, as other Bumiputeras, had benefitted from it. But so did the Malay/Bumiputera apologists.

In fact, if observed closely, these Malay/Bumiputera apologists are actually highly successful.

Their opinions and views are very much sought after by those anti-affirmative action non-Bumiputeras to lead in politics, non-governmental organisations, academic institutions and the media.

Or maybe, they are the ones Lim is referring to as lacking in quality. And wisdom is one quality stooges will never have.

**************

Lim skewed analysis should be seen as nothing but sinister. Never mind the fact that the think-tank he represent is backed by Chinese Chauvinist Penang DAP State Government.

The fact is that, none of the Chinese owned banks and top PLCs hired professional Malays as their CEO. The consideration is never about relevant experience, exposure, qualification or proven track record with industry recognition as the testimony. Even if when they the choice of international head hunters.

Obviously, personalities in the likes of Dato’ Seri Wahid himself have shown their mettle to lead and proven to deliver profitability and brought added value to the shareholders.

Screenshot of brief biodata of Tan Sri Megat Zaharuddin in Bloomberg Business

Screenshot of brief biodata of Tan Sri Megat Zaharuddin in Bloomberg Business

Malay professionals have proven themselves to serve MNCs abroad and brought pride not only to the race, but Malaysia at large. This include a proof that the New Economic System (NEP) worked given the ample and right chance, which emphasized on providing quality education as a strategic tool to uplift the socio-economic standing of the down trodden, especially the Malays.

Probably Lim never heard of successful corporate names such as Tan Sri Megat Zaharuddin Mohd. Nor, Tan Sri Hassan Merican and Dato’ Seri Zainal Abdul Jalil.

There is even this advocate and solicitor Hardani Azmi, who is a product of the NEP via Maktab Rendah Sains Mara system, joined an international legal firm Fasken Martineau as a partner to beef up their energy core team in London.

All of these men have proven to earn their mark, when they were given equal opportunities.

The icon of Malaysia corporate personality: Tan Sri Hassan Merican

The icon of Malay corporate personality: Tan Sri Hassan Merican

Petronas is one of the ‘new seven sisters’ which is profitable and provided more than 15% of the Federal Government revenue annually, had been professionally managed by a team of Malay management since its inception in 1974. The growth and profitability is the proof that given the opportunity, Malay professionals not only could manage but plan for better future results.

Probably caveman-economist like Lim would like to argue that managing a state-owned petroleum company is no brainer. Then again, a comparison against corporations like Pertamina would be a good yardstick.

This is something seriously lacking, from Chinese owned business entities, be it individually owned entreprise, SME/Is or PLCs. The discriminatory practices are found across the board. This is something which a study of  3,200 applications to 800 jobs (four applications to each jobs) were made by fictitious Malay and Chinese applicants, jointly conducted by two innovative economic researchers Dr. Lee Hwok Aun and Dr. Muhammed Abdul Khalid.

Excerpts:

Despite the assurances, a study conducted by University Malaya senior lecturer in development studies department Lee Hwok Aun and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia research fellow Muhammed Abdul Khalid showed that racial discrimination, at least, is very much prevalent in the private sector.

Stating that they were only able to conduct the study in the private sector, Lee said that the results that showed that Chinese applicants had an upper hand, was expected.

Lee said that the experiment was done as there were many opinions made from anecdotal evidence, personal experience or hearsay.

“I wanted to step back and examine the issue empirically and credibly,” he said.

The study involved the distribution of resumes of fictitious Malay and Chinese candidates to real job advertisers and comparing the number of callbacks candidates of each race gets.

“We ensured that the Malay and Chinese applicants in our pool were similarly qualified. We controlled for quality, in the way that experiments isolate the effect of the determinant in focus by controlling for – in other words, taking away – the effects of other determinants, “ Lee said.

When questioned on why only two races were chosen for the experiment, Lee said that the predominant images of labour market discrimination that form in our minds pit Chinese-owned private sector businesses against Malay graduates and a Malay dominated public sector against the non-Malay workforce.

He added that they faced practical difficulties as the duo considered including other groups such as preparing larger number of resumes, which in turn will require more manpower to process.

The result of the experiment showed that in private sectors, race mattered.

“Chinese applicants are much more likely than Malay applicants to be called for interview. Quality also matters, but much less so,” Lee said.

He added that some skills such as proficiency in Chinese dialects increased the chances of Malay applicants but not by much.

“This research just examines discrimination in selection for interview, not the job offer stage, let alone employment and promotion, which impact further on our economy and society.

“Investigating discrimination at those levels is controversial and difficult, if not impossible, since it will involve research assistants posing in person as job candidates,” he said.

Lee said that although the experiment did not answer the burning question of why such discrimination occurs, it was a starting point.

“Perhaps some employers expect Malay applicants to not socially fit into the company and hence do not bother calling them for interview, or perhaps they feel a need and justification for private sector to counterweight the pro-Malay policies in the public sector.

“We cannot confidently evaluate these arguments without further study. Emphatically, we must not be hasty to blame the discrimination we detect on malevolent motives and racial stereotyping, prejudice or bigotry,” he said.

Lee added that this was an issue we need to dwell on seriously as a nation.

************

Discriminatory unwritten policies and practices restricted Malay graduates to be given the opportunity, even when they have the necessary qualifications. When they are in, more discriminatory practices inhibits them from progressing.

This include not allowing them to be exposed to ‘prized projects’.

Another clear example is academic. If the argument that Malay graduates earn lesser quality qualification from public universities and colleges compared to the Non Malays. consider the fact on the opportunity available for qualified Malay academicians in private universities and colleges.

The only Malay private university Vice Chancellor Prof. Dato’ Dr. Hassan Mohamad

The fact that there are over 480 private universities and colleges in the nation as compared to 20 odd public universities.

However, there is only one prominent university college which employed a Malay academician as the Vice Chancellor, despite that there are thousands of professors and professionals with relevant academic experience amongst the Malays available.

As such, the fate of the Malays having their tertiary education via private colleges are numbered even from the angle of the discriminatory practice of allowing the Malays to lead.

Unless Lim could come with empirical evidence to support his claim that “The Malays are poor quality workforce”, then it is almost certain that he is a racist, bigot and liar or any combination between the three.

Published in: on October 8, 2013 at 06:30  Comments (55)