Fewer work opportunities for LGBTIQ candidates

The monthly earnings of gender-nonconforming heterosexuals, and gay and bisexual men was, on average, 30% lower than that of gender-conforming heterosexual men. Picture: iStock
The monthly earnings of gender-nonconforming heterosexuals, and gay and bisexual men was, on average, 30% lower than that of gender-conforming heterosexual men. Picture: iStock

Discrimination by employers results in longer job searches, higher unemployment rates and obvious disparities in income for those who are not part of the heteronormative workforce, according to new research.

Discrimination by employers towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people results in higher unemployment rates and longer job search periods, as well as self-elimination from the paid labour force.

Also, because, in most contexts, it’s a nonobservable trait, lesbian, gay, bisexual and intersex people may choose to hide their sexual orientation at work, but this type of coping strategy is not really an option for transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals.

Gender nonconformity refers to expressions of masculinity and femininity that deviate from stereotypical sex-linked expectations of gender.

A 2019 study by the UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) School of Law, in the US, reveals that discrimination in the recruitment process can result in LGBTIQ applicants eliminating themselves from particular jobs opportunities, being rejected by the employer or being treated differently. Creating barriers to entry, such as what is described above, harms the economy in the long run.

Across the globe, the transgender unemployment rate is higher than the national average
Study by the UCLA

A seasonal employee at a call centre in Cape Town, 22-year-old Kylie, says she knew she was overqualified for a position she interviewed for, but she didn’t get the job because the employer felt that, because of the hormone she was taking at the time – oestrogen – she would be too emotional for the job. Kylie identifies as a transgender woman and taking oestrogen is part of hormone therapy that is considered medically necessary for many transgender individuals.

Across the globe, the transgender unemployment rate is higher than the national average and nearly half of LGBTIQ employees report that discrimination has negatively affected their work environment.

According to the framework of the UN Global Compact, successful businesses thrive in inclusive, diverse societies. Building an inclusive and diverse workplace can help a company mitigate risks, respect human rights obligations and promote a healthy business environment within its own operations and in the broader community.

Because members of stigmatised groups are often not hired into positions that best reflect their abilities and human capital, a loss of wages would reflect a decrease in productivity through, for example, talent not being attracted or retained by firms, as well as there being little if no incentive for individuals to maximise effort.

This loss in productivity would result in lower output per work hour and, by implication, lower total output.

Gender-nonconforming heterosexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals were less likely to be employed than gender-conforming heterosexual individuals
UCLA study

The UCLA law school report further explains that output would decrease as stigmatised groups worked fewer hours as a result of constrained labour supply decisions and lower labour demand.

Key findings in the report state that gender-nonconforming heterosexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals were less likely to be employed than gender-conforming heterosexual individuals – 33.8% and 14.9% versus 46.4%, respectively.

Gender-nonconforming lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals were the least likely to be participating in the paid labour force.

The monthly earnings of gender-nonconforming heterosexuals, and gay and bisexual men was, on average, 30% lower than that of gender-conforming heterosexual men, accounting for sociodemographic characteristics and job type.

The annual economic costs of LGBTIQ stigma and discrimination are estimated as follows:
  • $316.8 million (R4.5 billion) due to wage discrimination and underemployment related to sexual orientation and gender expression;
  • Between $3.2 billion and $19.5 billion due to health disparities disproportionately experienced by LGBTIQ adults; and
  • Between $10.5 million and $64.8 million due to sexual assault disproportionately experienced by LGBTIQ adults.

As progressive as South Africa’s Constitution regarding LGBTIQ rights is, the social stigma and discrimination entrenched in mass public opinion contributes to barriers to economic and social inclusion for LGBTIQ citizens.

Practical building blocks for inclusion, business opportunities and tackling challenges faced by LGBTIQ employees and business owners are being pushed by organisations like PLUS LGBTI+ Business Network and The Other Foundation in southern Africa, and are focused on promoting economic empowerment and participation, thus improving social inclusion and physical safety for LGBTIQ people in the workplace.

This series on LGBTIQ life in Africa is made possible through a partnership with The Other Foundation. To learn more about its work, visit theotherfoundation.org


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