One in six students from an immigrant background experiences discrimination when applying for a work placement. Among students from a Dutch background, this number is 3 percent, as reported in the 2016 National Work Placement Report, which was just published by work placement agency StudentenBureau.
The Work Placement Report is released annually on 20 May, a day dedicated to students on work experience. Some 1,300 students were surveyed as part of the study, approximately 200 of whom were from an immigrant background, meaning either they themselves or one or both of their parents were from abroad.
StudentenBureau’s Hanneke Versteege expressed ‘great shock’ at the survey results published by her agency. “I’ll be brief – this is unacceptable. However, we are glad that this study has brought the problem to light, and we hope that the discussion raised by these results will help find a solution.”
Greater effort to obtain a work experience position
In many cases, students will encounter problems as soon as they start applying for a work experience position. 60 Percent of students from an immigrant background experience difficulty securing a work experience position, versus 40 percent of students from a Dutch background. The reasons quoted by the students include their schools’ requirements vis-à-vis the companies offering the work placement positions, the companies’ requirements vis-à-vis the students’ experience, the students’ lack of knowledge with regard to job applications and the low number of available graduation projects.
The fact that students from an immigrant background make a greater effort to obtain a work experience position is borne out by the number of letters of application they send to prospective employers. On average, students from a Dutch background send 6.5 letters before obtaining a position, whereas students from an immigrant background send an average of 8 letters.
Experiencing discrimination while on work experience
Once students from an immigrant background have finally obtained a work experience position, they feel they still encounter discrimination. Sixteen percent of students from an immigrant background reported being subjected to discrimination, versus 10 percent of students from a Dutch background. “At lunch time, every conversation was about my headscarf. Furthermore, I was often confronted with discriminatory comments on my religious belief. I was only allowed to have limited contact with customers due to my headscarf”, one of the survey respondents reported.
In addition, the survey showed that students from a foreign background were treated differently from students from a Dutch background in terms of wages. Students from an immigrant background were less likely to receive wages during their work placements, and in cases where they did receive wages, they got an average of € 8 less per month. However, the difference in wage level is decreasing. Last year, students from a Dutch background on average earned € 14 more than their counterparts from a foreign background.
The survey respondents reported that companies are not just discriminating on the basis of ethnicity, but also on the basis of gender. For instance, about 15 percent of female students indicated that they had experienced discrimination during their work placements, versus 5 percent of male students.