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Catching up with GEMM: Uncovering racial discrimination in job recruitment in Europe

When the GEMM project ended in 2018, it had delivered an assessment of labour market inequalities of migrants and minorities in Europe. Five years on, it has conducted the largest study on racial discrimination in European job recruitment.

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The EU-funded GEMM project shed light on the drivers of these inequalities and determined how institutional factors account for differences between countries. Researchers provided practical recommendations that were of particular interest to policymakers. “The results highlighted the significant gaps that exist between migrant groups in European labour markets, particularly the alarming levels of hiring discrimination towards ethnic and religious minorities that show little signs of abating over time,” explains Neli Demireva, professor of sociology at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom and coordinator of GEMM. “Our findings suggest that there is little competition between majority populations in the receiving countries and migrants,” she adds. “The context of receptions matters for migrants’ better integration – host country-related courses can be particularly important for refugees and the most vulnerable groups.” In summer 2023, a study was published in the ‘Socio-Economic Review’ that presented the outcomes of the first large-scale experiment on appearance-based racial discrimination involving hiring carried out in Europe. Researchers examined the responses of nearly 13 000 European companies to fictitious job applications in Germany, Spain and the Netherlands where attaching a photograph to a CV is normal practice. The names and photographs were changed in job applications that were submitted to real online vacancies for many different occupations. All fictitious applicants were young European-country nationals born to parents from four major regions (Europe-United States, Maghreb-Middle East, Latin America-Caribbean and Asia). Overall, the findings showed that having a non-white phenotype (racial appearance) is a major barrier to securing employment for Europeans born to immigrant parents. Black applicants received the lowest callback rates on average, and white applicants the highest. Applicants of Maghreb and Middle Eastern descent with black phenotypes had to submit about 50 % more applications to get a call from employers than applicants with identical CVs, but with European names and white phenotypes. EU funding has been key to achieving GEMM’s ambitious goals. “It allowed us to compare integration processes and outcomes over different countries in Europe,” Demireva concludes. “It also enabled us to highlight the factors that help to successfully integrate migrants and minorities in the host-country labour market, all to the benefit of minorities, the majority population and the European host societies we studied.”


GEMM, racial discrimination, discrimination, job recruitment, labour market, inequality, migrant, minority, hiring, phenotype