Job ads and gender in developing countries

Job ads and gender in developing countries

4 minute read

While developed nations now generally prohibit the inclusion of age and gender requirements in job advertisements, most of the world’s working-age population live in countries where this practice remains allowed. Associate Professor Kailing Shen from the ANU College of Business and Economics explores the relationship between age and gender in job advertisements placed in these countries.

Using data from mainstream Mexican and Chinese job boards, Shen reports an age twist: while firms seeking younger employees express a preference to hire women, when advertising for older workers, they favour men.

“We find that job characteristics such as job title account for 65% of the age twist, with half of this ‘explained’ component the result of employers explicit requests for older men and younger women to fill managerial roles and customer-service positions, respectively” said Shen.

“Moreover, anecdotal evidence suggests that the 35% of the age twist not explained by job characteristics, or occurring within job titles, relates to parenthood. By way of example, the gender preference shift from women to men in Chinese job advertisements coincides with the narrow window when most women have their first, and only, child” Shen notes.

“Finally, requests for applications from young women commonly require that candidates also be physically attractive”, she adds. Indeed, on one of the Chinese job boards, almost half of the job ads aimed at women under the age of 30 require that the applicant be physically attractive. This is a marked difference to the 9.8% (4.8%) of ads for men under 30 (over 30) which suggest that only the attractive need apply.

Current results aside, Shen predicts that the increased demand for skilled workers in emerging economies will mean firms will have to search further to find suitable candidates, prompting “a voluntary reduction in employers' use of coarse demographic screens like age and gender to pre-judge the suitability of potential job applicants”.

Although there is hope, this research highlights the importance of addressing job accessibility in these contexts.

“A key feature of the gender wage gap is the fact that it widens as workers age in almost all labour markets. While this gap in wage growth rates is frequently attributed to gender gaps in career interruptions and human capital investments, our paper suggests that another factor might also contribute to this phenomenon: the share of jobs that are actually ‘open’ to female applicants declines with age,” the paper concludes.

This research was published in The Journal of Human Resources and its abstract is available here.

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