A new study has found that employers in Sweden more often reject job applications from transgender people, especially in male-dominated occupations.
Since 2017, gender identity and gender expression is one of the seven grounds for discrimination in Swedish discrimination legislation. However, transgender people, that is, people who identify with another gender than the one they were assigned at birth, report that they are often subject to discrimination in the workplace.
Economics researchers at Linköping University in Sweden have now confirmed that this is the case. The researchers say their study is the first to prove this by way of experimental method.
“From an economic point of view, it’s interesting to ask why employers don’t make use of these people’s skills. We wanted to find out on which grounds employers discriminate against transgender people, because in this case there are two legislative grounds for discrimination that could apply: Firstly, sex, and secondly, gender identity and gender expression,” said Mark Granberg, a doctoral student in economics at Linköping University.
Granberg carried out the study with Dr. Ali Ahmed, a professor in economics, and Per A. Andersson, a doctoral student in psychology.
Previous studies show that transgender people experience workplace discrimination in various forms. In an American study from 2011, half of the transgender people reported that they had been subject to, among other things, harassment at work. But there has been a lack of experimental studies — as opposed to self-report studies — into workplace discrimination of transgender people, the Swedish researchers said.
According to the researchers, their study is the first to use a correspondence test to investigate employer discrimination against transgender people.
The correspondence test is a common method when studying discrimination: Participants do not physically meet the employer, but submit a written application.
The Linköping researchers sent in 2,224 fictitious applications for low-skilled jobs listed on the Swedish Public Employment Service’s job database. The applications stated that the applicant had undergone a name change — in some cases from a male name to another male name, and in some cases the names crossed gender boundaries, e.g. Erik became Amanda, the researchers described.
For every application, the researchers noted whether they received a reply and, if so, what the reply was.
The results show that it was 18 percent more likely that a cis person — a person who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth — got a positive response from the employer, compared to a transgender person.
The results also reveal differences between female and male-dominated occupations, the researchers noted.
With regard to positive replies to applications, the researchers found that the greatest differences between cis and transgender people were in male-dominated occupations. In this instances, cis men received a positive reply from the employer in 44 percent of the cases, compared to 24 percent for the transgender women.
In female-dominated occupations, the discrimination appeared to depend mainly on the gender with which the applicant identified at the time of application, the researchers discovered.
In occupations where men and women are more or less equally represented, the researchers saw no statistically significant differences between the applicants.
“The study shows that the legislation is not sufficient to protect this group on the labor market,” Granberg said. “It also suggests that employers discriminate based on several grounds. For instance, it is likely that a transgender man is discriminated against for being transgender in male-dominated occupations, while in female-dominated occupations, the same person would probably face discrimination for being male.”
The study was published in the journal Labour Economics.
Source: Linköping University