Asians changing names to help job prospects

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The Independent Online
UNEMPLOYED Asians in the Midlands are changing their names to make prospective employers believe they are white.

The young Asians, who fear that they will not be interviewed by racist employers, are changing their traditional Asian names, such as Davinder, Charanjit and Surinder, to the 'white-sounding' David, Charlie and Sara.

Balvinder Singh, of the Birmingham Council of Sikh Gurdwaras, an organisation which works closely with Indian teenagers, said: 'Some personnel managers don't want Asians and would prefer to employ whites and so young Asians are now modifying their names accordingly'.

Mr Singh, who is known by his work colleagues as Billy, added: 'The first stage of discrimination is the application form and these young Asians are desperate enough to change their names in order to obtain an interview.'

One Asian who amended his name is Shamash Dean Choudhry, now a financial consultant. He was 'advised to drop Choudhry as a surname when applying for a post with a large car dealership'.

Mr Choudhry admits that on his application form he 'pretended to be Irish' by calling himself Shamus Dean. 'It worked and I got an interview and ended up working there,' he said.

Research by the Policy Studies Institute shows that one-third of all employers surveyed rejected applications on the basis of name alone.

During the research, a number of employers were sent two identical forms, one with an English- sounding name and the other without. It was found that many employers only offered interviews to the applicant with an English- sounding name.

Mr Singh believes that if Asian unemployment continues to rise the practice will continue. Figures from the Department of Employment show that '25 per cent of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi community and 11 per cent of those of Indian background were unemployed'. This compares with 9 per cent of the white community.

The department's Employment Gazette said: 'People of ethnic minority origin were more likely to be unemployed than whites from the same age and sex groups. The highest unemployment was among the Pakistani, Bangladeshi and West Indian community.'

However, not all Asians approve of changing names. Mukesh Murria, chairman of the Birmingham Institute of Asian Businesses, dismisses the practice as 'immature'.

'For economic betterment, those who amend their names are misleading the community and disgracing their fellow countrymen . . . even if they get the job they will never regain the respect of the employer because they have already tried to mislead him.'

He argued that Asians should 'stand firm and try to prove to their own community that they are of worth, and that then will be able to prove to others that they are worthy of employment'.

Mr Murria's views are shared by the Commission for Racial Equality.

A commission spokeswoman said that, 'although we know employers do discriminate against ethnic minority applicants, to change one's name is, in effect, to collude with discriminatory practices and we would be against it'.

(Photograph omitted)