Labour Discrimination a Symptom of HIV Experimental Evaluation: The Greek Case

Labour Discrimination a Symptom of HIV Experimental Evaluation: The Greek Case

In the current study having considered the fundamental points the first ever correspondence testing was conducted in order to test whether job applicants living with HIV (still) face prejudices in the crucial stage of the selection process in Greece.

Authors: Drydakis Nick
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AIDS is a global pandemic disease, and persons with HIV are stigmatized throughout the world to varying degrees2 (ILO [2007]). The first AIDS cases were reported in June 1981 and despite efforts to control epidemic, HIV/AIDS continues to spread in most countries 3 . Since the earliest days of the epidemic, people with AIDS and those suspected of being infected with HIV have been subjected to social ostracism and discrimination in employment (Herek and Glunt [1988], Gostin and Webber [1998], ILO [2007]).

The HIV infection fits the profile of a condition that carries a high level of stigmatization, a great perception of danger and fear of contagion (Herek [1990]). Individual cases of emotional isolation and denial of employment on the basis of HIV status have been reported through international observatories, while press accounts and anecdotal reports told stories of people with AIDS fired and discriminated against from their jobs (Herek [1999], UNAIDS [2006]). A significant feature of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic is its concentration in the working age population and people in the prime of their productive life. The fact that the epidemic disproportionately affects those with critical social and economic roles have serious implications for their lives, and this fact is further compounded by the great stigma and discrimination directed at these persons.

On the other hand, with the introduction of effective HIV treatments (ART-antiretrovic) people living with HIV can remain well, have a normal life-span and lead active, working lives (National Aids Trust [2006]). Now on, it is a misconception to assume that someone living with HIV will require more time off than another member of staff (NAT [2006], UNAIDS [2006], ILO [2007]). People living with HIV can work and enjoy prosperous careers, just anyone else and they can work successfully in a wide variety of occupations, i.e. there are nurses, teachers, chefs, mechanics, and lawyers living with HIV (United Kingdom Coalition [2007]).

Despite the fact that HIV is not readily transmitted in the workplace settings (ILO [2007], UNAIDS [2006], UKC [2007]), and one would not normally expect people to have sexual relationship at work or to carry out any of the acts that expose to HIV infection, the supported risk of transmission has been used by numerous employers to terminate or refuse employment (Gostin [1992], Barragan [1992], Omangi [1997], UNESCO [2007]). On the other hand, AIDS/HIV stigma does motivate individuals to attempt to pass as members of the non-stigmatized majority (UNAIDS [2006], UNESCO [2007]). Fearing rejection and mistreatment, many people with HIV keep their health status a secret in employment. The mentioned points have clear negative effect on societies, firms, co-workers and customers toward HIV positive persons. Actually, it has proved that discrimination in the workplace reinforces stigmatization of AIDS (UNAIDS [2006]).

The recognition of the negative consequences of AIDS stigma for individuals and for public health led to enactment of statutory protections. The international communities have continued to demonstrate increasing concerns about HIV/AIDS across sectors. Following International Labour Organization Code of Practice for HIV/AIDS in the Workplace (2001), HIV/AIDS is an employment issue, not only because it affects the workplace, but also because the workforce can play a vital role in limiting the spread and effects of the epidemic. The ILO Code is right- based and sets out fundamental principles, as well as rights and obligations from which concrete responses to HIV/AIDS can be developed at firms, community and national levels. Following the ILO Code, there should be no stigmatization against workers and applicants on the basis of real or perceived HIV status. People living with HIV can not be harassed against in recruitment, in employment terms and conditions, in chances for promotion transfer, training or other benefits, thought unfair dismissal or less favorable treatment than other workers.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is in its third decade, and much research exists on its immediate impact on the health of individuals, diagnostic and therapeutic approaches, and immediate methods of prevention. However, the broader determinants and consequences of the epidemic on societies and economies make up a relatively newer and less developed science (Chartier [2005]). After these decades of extensive public education about HIV, one could hope that AIDS stigma and discrimination would now be relics of the past. However, this is not the case.

In the current study we are interested to examine whether employer discrimination plays an important role in shaping the labour market of HIV-positive applicants. We address this issue directly with an experimental field that allows direct observations of employer hiring decision. The study employed for the first time the correspondence testing in order to investigate current trends about HIV stigma. By mailing resumes differed only in applicants’ health condition we estimated the degree to which HIV considerations shape real hiring decisions to advertised job openings. Whether it is fear and ignorance about how HIV is transmitted, dislike of groups of people most affected or disapproval of other people’s behavior, HIV discrimination is a real issue in the Greek labour market. The rate of net discrimination against male HIV-positives is found to be between 82.6% and 97.8% among occupations. On the other hand, the rate of net discrimination against female HIV-positives is found to be between 81.6% and 98.8%.

The current study initiates to serve the growing need for research information on HIV/AIDS and labour market, and to disseminate relevant findings. Unbiased answers are elusive as discrimination is hard to measure without observing actual hiring decisions. What we know about hiring mostly comes from court cases or selected studies of firms, with their attendant uncertain generality. Correspondence testing is a potentially promising method for extending our understanding of hiring discrimination. In our study, we gain important insights into how HIV status colors employers’ perceptions of job candidate quality and desirability. To our best knowledge, no attempt has been made by other country to estimate HIV discrimination over a long period using a field experiment.

Our results must imply that employers use health condition as a factor when reviewing resumes which matches the legal definition of discrimination. These dynamics lead to longer search or wait times for HIV-positive applicants. This expression of stigma and discrimination it might be a result of both the assumption that HIV means fear of contagion, the belief that HIV is contracted through inappropriate behavior, as well as that people living with HIV are less productive. As efforts grow up, to address prejudices, so does the need for a set of standard tested and validated stigma and discrimination indicators. By providing a standardized way of describing and measuring discrimination across different sectors, we offer a means to evaluate programs and identify what works to reduce stigma.

This study discusses, further, issues relating to discrimination in the workplace on the basis of real or perceived HIV status, it highlights the applications of legislative and legal measures and procedures based on relevant ILO instruments, and the strategic role of firms and their tripartite constituents in taking action to address this problem through the promotion of fundamental principles and right at work. The rest of the paper is organized as follows. In the next section we sketch out the ILO Code. In the third section we evaluate HIV/AIDS stigma. In the fourth section we describe the methodology, the application structure of the investigation, and we present the model encapsulating the relationships. In the fifth section we present and discuss the results. In the sixth section we present legislation models as well as firms’ core strategies toward HIV/AIDS. The last section concludes. 


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