Job advertisement survey by the Anti-Discrimination Agency: Employers generally advertise job vacancies in a non-discriminatory manner/Still room for improvement with gender-sensitive language

Year of issue 2018
Date 2018.10.08

According to the results of a recent study, job advertisements rarely contain blatant discrimination. However, employers are not yet making full use of the opportunity to formulate job advertisements in such a way as to attract a maximal number of people with the utmost degree of diversity. Gender-sensitive language is also still used too seldom – even though it is now required according to a decision by the Federal Institutional Court. These are the main findings of a nationwide survey by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency presented in Berlin on Monday.

"The study shows that the General Equal Treatment Act (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz) is effective with regard to job advertisements", said Bernhard Franke, acting head of the Anti-Discrimination Agency. "However, there is still room for improvement. Employers, for instance, hardly ever specifically address underrepresented groups. A focus on diversity is another topic all too rarely positively emphasised", Franke continued. "What is more, when advertising for a job, employers now must not only consider men and women, but also persons with different gender identities – which currently still rarely happens", Franke added, referring to the Federal Institutional Court’s decision.

In the largest national survey conducted thus far, experts of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency assessed a total of 5,667 job advertisements from local and national print media as well as online job portals. In addition, they examined 309 adverts from the platform eBay Kleinanzeigen, since the Anti-Discrimination Agency has repeatedly received complaints about discriminatory job advertisements posted there.

Almost all of the job advertisements examined (97.8 percent) did not contain any discrimination, while 2.2 percent included discriminatory content. The overwhelming majority of announcements with any discriminatory content (around 80 percent) referred to gender – the advertisements in question were, for instance, not phrased in a gender-neutral manner and only addressed one gender. 16.8 percent of advertisements contained age-based discrimination. This category generally included advertisements containing age limits, those specifically asking for a ‘young’ applicant or in which employers described themselves as a young team. In 8 percent of discriminatory job adverts, the factor of ethnic origin played a role. In these cases, the discrimination always consisted of the requirement ‘German native speaker’. A disproportionately high prevalence of clearly discriminatory wording can be found in job advertisements published by private households.

In addition to these rather tangible examples of discrimination, the experts also examined all of the advertisements for discrimination risks. Although, from the Anti-Discrimination Agency’s point of view, these advertisements do not constitute a legal violation of the General Equal Treatment Act, they can result in whole groups of possible applicants feeling alienated – for example, when the corresponding photos only show young, white men. With around one in five adverts falling into this category, the proportion was much higher than that of adverts that contained concrete discrimination. Discrimination risks mainly occurred in relation to the characteristic of gender. "Our study demonstrates that job advertisements still do not adequately reflect the diversity of our society, and that certain groups of job-seekers are still not being properly addressed", Franke said. "This means employers miss vital opportunities in times of skilled worker shortage and, at the same time, young women or persons with a migrant background, for instance, feel disregarded."

Requirements regarding the non-discriminatory phrasing of job advertisements are specified in the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG). It stipulates that job advertisement may not discriminate on the basis of ethnic origin, gender, religion or beliefs, disability, age or sexual orientation. That means, job adverts have to be phrased as neutrally as possible with regard to such characteristics. Positive measures, i.e. inviting specific underrepresented groups to apply, is permissible. In the evaluation, job advertisements were divided into those that did not contain any discrimination, those that did not violate the AGG but displayed discrimination risks and those that clearly violated the AGG.

The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (ADS for its initials in German) was established when the General Equal Treatment Act (German abbreviation: AGG) entered into force in August 2006. This Act aims to prevent or eliminate any discrimination on grounds of racism or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.