Discrimination of Non-Western Ethnic Minorities in the Workplace

Student thesis: Master Thesis and HD Thesis

  • Shezeen Ahmed
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
This thesis explores discrimination of non-western ethnic minorities in the workplace. Quantitative research show that discrimination of non-western ethnic minorities in the workplace is a widespread phenomenon in Denmark, although it is prohibited by international and national legislation and has a negative impact on the society, the workplaces and on the discriminated individuals. Although discrimination of this group is widespread in Denmark, there is limited in-depth research on this subject (Jacobsen, Jensen, Knudsen, Tørslev & Weibel, 2012, s. 7-8). More specifically, there has been conducted a limited amount of research regarding how discrimination is expressed in the interpersonal interactions and how it affects the discriminated individuals. Therefore, this thesis will focus on what dynamics and patterns occur across differences in non-western ethnic minority backgrounds, gender, education and professions, when non-western ethnic minorities experience discrimination in their workplaces. The research is conducted through a phenomenological lens, with a qualitative approach and semi-structural interview as the method, where the focus is on the minorities’ experiences, their feelings about these experiences and how it affected them. Six individuals, who have experienced discrimination in their workplaces, are selected for interview. The selection is based on variations in gender, non-western ethnic minority background, educational background and occupation. Through the research, there has been located five patterns regarding the discrimination that the minorities experienced in their workplaces: discrimination based on degradation and lower expectations, discrimination based on other factors in interaction with ethnicity, discrimination in the form of indirect verbal and non-verbal communication, discrimination in the form of harder work and higher demands, and the emotional consequences of discrimination. Regarding discrimination based on degradation and lower expectations, the minorities are discriminated in direct and indirect ways. The direct ways are shown through the leaders’ and colleagues’ degrading comments based mainly on the minorities’ ethnicity and hereby emphasizing that the minority workers are not equal beings and therefore do not possess the same rights as people from the majority, such as equal working condition and wages. The indirect degradation is shown through lower expectations towards the minority workers’ intelligence and competencies. This is expressed through controlling and overseeing the minorities’ duties, depriving them of professional skilled duties and assigning them unskilled work, which do not fall under their job description, and explaining basic knowledge to them in a condescending manner. In regards to discrimination based on other factors in interaction with ethnicity, the research finds that the discrimination the minorities experience is also based on a complex interaction between their ethnicity and their other identity positions, such as their gender, religion, sexuality, occupation, place of residence and age. This complex interaction between the different identity positions means, that the discrimination qualitatively changes depending on the identity positions of the individuals. Some of the minorities experience discrimination through stereotypical assumptions about their ethnicity, gender and occupational roles simultaneously, while others experience sexual harassment based on assumptions related to other identity positions. Regarding discrimination in the form of indirect verbal and non-verbal communication the research finds that discrimination does not necessarily occur directly through words and actions, but can also occur indirectly through body language, eye contact, the pitch and tempo of the voice, which the colleagues and leaders of the minorities use to convey the message of inferiority. Concerning discrimination in the form of harder work and higher demands the research finds that the minority workers must work harder, perform higher and deliver results with higher quality compared to their ethnic majority colleagues. Although the minorities have relevant job experience, have taken an education, speak Danish fluently, etc. they experience limited access to promotion and recognition from the leaders and colleagues. Some of the minorities also feel that they must work harder as a form of compensation for their ethnicity and in order to avoid further discrimination. Regarding the emotional consequences of discrimination the minorities experienced a negative impact on their emotional well-being as a result of the discrimination. The minorities experience an impact on their self-confidence, feel alienated, fearful, powerless, depressed and humiliated.
Publication date2 Jan 2020
Number of pages81
ID: 318665798