The University of Edinburgh -

Working Papers on the Reconciliation of Work and Welfare in Europe

REC-WP 10 / 10

Statistical Discrimination and Employers’ Recruitment Practices for Low Skilled Workers

Giuliano Bonoli and Karl Hinrichs

Download complete paper pdficon_large 


This paper deals with the recruitment strategies of employers in the low-skilled segment of the labour market. We focus on low-skilled workers because they are overrepresented among jobless people and constitute the bulk of the clientele included in various activation and labour market programmes. A better understanding of the constraints and opportunities of interventions in this labour market segment may help improve their quality and effectiveness. On the basis of qualitative interviews with 41 employers in six European countries, we find that the traditional signals known to be used as statistical discrimination devices (old age, immigrant status and unemployment) play a somewhat reduced role, since these profiles are overrepresented among applicants for low skill positions. On the other hand, we find that other signals, mostly considered to be indicators of motivation, have a bigger impact in the selection process. These tend to concern the channel through which the contact with a prospective candidate is made. Unsolicited applications and recommendations from already employed workersemit a positive signal, whereas the fact of being referred by the public employment office is associated with the likelihood of lower motivation.

Statistical discrimination, low-skilled workers, employers’ recruitment strategies