Professional associations' journals launch campaign against xenophobia

A study of 300 personnel managers commissioned by the journals of 13 Danish professional associations indicates that one out of five public sector managers and one out of 10 public sector managers believe that highly educated immigrants and refugees do not belong in their organisation. The reasons most commonly cited are language and cultural barriers, as well as scepticism as to the quality of foreign education programmes. The study was commissioned as part of a joint campaign, entitled "Professional journals against xenophobia", launched in June 2000.

An exceptional campaign to oppose discrimination against foreigners on the Danish labour market has been launched by 13 journals of professional associations - such as those representing engineers, lecturers, psychologists, economists and pharmacists - with a total of 183,393 subscribers. Very symbolically, the campaign was launched on 5 June 2000, Danish Constitution Day: 151 years ago, Denmark's first Constitution established a number of democratic rights to be enjoyed by all Danish citizens.

The campaign, Journals against xenophobia (Fagblade mod fremmedhad), is one result of a long-running public debate concerning the integration of immigrants on the Danish labour market. In the spring of 2000, the Ministry of Labour published a report about this problem, drawn up by a committee established by the social partners (DK0005179F). This integration debate has also focused on highly educated immigrants, notably from Poland and Iran. For example, newspapers recently published a story about an Iranian dentist who had become tired of working as a taxi-driver in Denmark and had emigrated to the USA, where he is today running his own clinic and earning.

On behalf of the 13 professional journals, the Vilstrup Research institute conducted interviews with 300 personnel managers, which indicated that employers are still reluctant to recruit people with foreign names. The Vilstrup report, Barriers to recruitment of highly educated persons with a different ethnic background revealed that 20% of the personnel managers interviewed in private enterprises were of the opinion that it would be a problem to recruit highly educated immigrants in their specific enterprise. This opinion was shared by 10% of the managers interviewed in the public sector. The three most important causes of the comparatively high level of unemployment among highly educated immigrants are said to be language problems, cultural problems and uncertainty and prejudices on the part of employers. Of the managers interviewed, 5% stated that it was out of consideration for their customers that they did not recruit highly educated persons with a different ethnic background. Furthermore, one out of three managers in both the public and the private sector were of the opinion that the quality of foreign education programmes is not at the same high level as Danish programmes.

The new campaign is the first time in the history of the Danish professional press that so many journals have joined in a formal cooperation to promote a common cause. On the basis of the analysis conducted by Vilstrup, the June issue of all 13 journals contained a number of independent articles under the general heading Journals against xenophobia. The stories take a close look at highly educated immigrants and refugees and the barriers they meet on their way into the Danish labour market. The themes cover many aspects, from daily experience with immigrant colleagues to major scientific inventions by highly educated immigrants in universities and other higher education institutions. The initiative has given the Centre for Evaluation of Foreign Education Programmes - which was established on 1 January 2000 - a chance to express its views in the media and to attract new interest. The three editors (from three different journals) who started the journals' initiative hope that the research and the articles will contribute to making it clear why highly educated immigrants are not recruited. Combined with a more detailed professional evaluation of the content and quality of foreign education programmes, this could be the first step towards dismantling the most important barriers to recruitment by Danish enterprises of highly educated people with a different ethnic background.

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