Abstract: Employment/Work Issues

AAPI Nexus: Employment Volume 3, Number 2 Summer/Fall 2005 Abstracts

Employment Discrimination and Asian Americans
By: Stuart J. Ishimaru

Abstract: Despite the long history of Asian Americans of fighting for fundamental rights, Asian Americans appear to be less active in complaining about employment discrimination.  For example, in 2003, Asian Americans filed proportionally fewer employment discrimination charges with the EEOC than other minority employees. This article examines the factors that create an atmosphere in which Asian Americans do not file as many charges of employment discrimination with the EEOC as one would expect.  Also, it explores possible ways to motivate Asian American communities and individuals to engage in and recognize the community’s investment in the equal employment opportunity process.  Specifically, it proposes additional outreach and education to Asian Americans to be informed of their rights as well as areas for further research and additional

Workforce Development:  Its Potential and Limitations for Chinese Garment Workers
By: Karin Mak and Grace Meng

Abstract: Today’s changing political and economic environment requires new strategies and collaborations in order to effectively advocate for the rights of garment workers.  Globally, a major restructuring of apparel production is anticipated in 2005, which will further enable apparel retailers and manufacturers to move production to countries offering the lowest labor costs.  California could lose more than half of its industry, leaving 50,000 immigrants unemployed.  Workforce development is a possible way to help transition garment workers into better jobs.  The article reflects upon the experiences of Chinese garment workers with the workforce development system, and points out that workforce development alone is not enough to confront the challenges facing garment workers in the global economy.

Asian Americans in the Labor Market:  Public Policy Issues
By: Don Mar

Abstract: Asian American/Pacific Islander public policy issues in the labor market are examined using the 2000 Census PUMS (Public Use Micro Sample) data.  AAPI labor market problems raised by earlier studies are revisited with the more recent data.  Southeast Asians, Vietnamese, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders continue to face problems of poverty/low income, unemployment, and discrimination in occupations and earnings.  Many API groups are less likely to be employed in managerial occupations controlling for factors such as education and potential experience.  New policy issues suggested by the data are lower rates of self-employment for many APIs compared to non-Hispanic whites as well as lower rates of homeownership by all API groups compared to non-Hispanic whites.

Weak Winners of Globalization:  Indian H-1B Workers in the American Information Economy
By: Paula Chakravartty

Abstract: This article examines the complexity of the debate around the temporary worker visa known as the H-1B program for highly skilled foreign nationals.  The debate against the H-1B visa program has been dominated by what feminist economist Naila Kabeer has argued are “coalitions of ‘powerful losers’ in the north seeking to claw back the gains made from international trade by ‘weak winners’ in the south” (Kabeer 2002).  I argue that these metaphors are resonant in the debate over the H-1B visa program, where displaced American Information Technology (IT) workers conflate the role of Indian H-1B workers as both vulnerable victims of corporate greed and menacing threats to national prosperity and security, reinforcing both symbolic and institutional racism against this new category of Asian immigrant worker.  Based on interviews with over 100 Indian H-1B workers, this paper challenges many of the assumptions about “indentured servitude,” and my findings suggest alternate policy alternatives to pitting the interests of “cheap Indian workers” against the interests of “Americans.”

The Risk of Timing Out:  Welfare-to-Work Services to Asian Immigrants and Refugees
By: Julian Chun-Chung Chow, Kathy Lemon Osterling, and Qingwen Xu

Abstract: With the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, welfare recipients are faced with new work requirements and sanctions, including a five-year time limit on receiving public assistance.  Due to difficulties in adjustment to American society and lack of human capital for the labor market, Asian immigrants and refugees face obstacles transitioning from welfare to work.  The majority of individuals in the San Francisco Bay Area who have reached the five-year time limit since January 2003 are of Asian descent.  Without adequate welfare-to-work services, restrictions and time limits are leaving many Asian recipients without the proficiencies required for employment, as well as without the cash assistance needed for survival.  Using a qualitative study approach by conducting three focus groups with Asian welfare recipients in the San Francisco Bay Area, findings of this study indicate that existing welfare-to-work programs do not meet the unique needs of this population.  Their barriers for achieving self-sufficiency are not adequately addressed by welfare reform’s “work first” approach.  Instead, findings suggest that welfare-to-work program strategies for this population should incorporate culturally competent support services, human capital development, and strength-based approaches.  As more Asian immigrant families lose cash assistance as a result of reaching the five-year time limit, the need to improve welfare-to-work programs and policies for this population has become increasingly urgent.

Screening Names Instead of Qualifications:  Testing with Emailed Resumes Reveals Racial Preferences
By: Siri Thanasombat and John Trasviña

Abstract: In today’s California, Asian Americans and Arab Americans have diminished employment opportunities because employment agencies focus on their names, not qualifications. The Discrimination Research Center has documented the response rates to resumes submitted on behalf of men and women who have equal qualifications and ethnically identifiable names of Asian American, Arab American, Latino, African American and white backgrounds. Although potentially illegal and certainly unacceptable, results that showed that individuals with Arab or South Asian names, especially men, received the lowest response rates to their resumes were not particularly surprising in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 and subsequent changes in world affairs.  Local animosity and antagonism ranging from discrimination to violence in response to events in the Middle East are well known and fit a historic pattern. Other statistically significant results showing Asian Americans receiving far fewer responses than white women applicants despite their comparable resumes suggest the persistence of long-held perceptions of Asian Americans as “foreigners”, not capable of “fitting in”, and reluctant to complain when wronged.  Asian American community organizations and leaders may wish to replicate DRC testing in other parts of the United States or utilize these research results as a basis for workplace advocacy and litigation.