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Workplace homophobia rises during recessions

Published: 26 November 2021 at 12:00

Photo of a CV

Study is first to look at how the economy affects attitudes towards gay men

Gay men experience increased discrimination in the labour market during times of economic recession, with significant discrepancies in pay and offers of job interviews compared to heterosexual men, according to a study by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).

Researchers created applications for fictional job candidates: the profiles implied one candidate was gay and the other heterosexual. Both had comparable skills and working experiences, and both applications were sent for the same job opening. 

Researchers selected full-time, low-skilled job openings in the private sector that appeared on newspaper websites. The applications were later followed up by a questionnaire to find out more about employers’ attitudes towards homosexual male employees.

The study, the first to examine how attitudes towards gay men are linked to the health of the economy, took place in Greece during two periods of economic recession, 2013/14 and 2018/19, and replicated a study that took place during 2006/07. 

In 2006/07, a time of relative economic stability, it was found that the gay job candidates were invited to interview for jobs earning on average 3.9% less than the heterosexual candidates. In 2013/14, the comparable figure was 5.7%, and in 2018/19, this figure was 7.1%.

The study found that 2006/07, gay men were 26.4% less likely to receive a job interview than heterosexual men. This figure increased to 28% in 2013/14, and 30.4% in 2018/19. All applicants, regardless of their sexual orientation, were 7.1% less likely to get an interview in 2013/14 than 2006/07, reflecting the economic hardship of the time. In 2018/19, they were 6.2% less likely to get an interview than 2006/07.

Follow up questionnaires found that during periods of economic downturns, employers’ homophobic attitudes against gay men increased by 19.4%. There was a 26% increase in employer belief that gay men should hide their sexual orientation in the workplace, and a 17.1% increase in those that believed there was something wrong in a sexual relationship between two men.

Professor Nick Drydakis, Director of the Centre for Inclusive Societies and Economies (CISE) at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“This is the first study to examine how economic downturns correspond with increasing biases against gay men, and finds that the two periods of economic recession were disproportionately harmful to gay men in the labour market.

“Prejudices against minorities might rise during periods of economic uncertainty. We know that economic downturns correlate with sex discrimination, xenophobia, hate crimes, intolerance, and the denial of fundamental human rights. 

“Therefore positive workplace practices and antidiscrimination laws can have an important role in reducing workplace biases against LGBTIQ+ people.”

The research was published in the journal Review of Economics of the Household. The average unemployment rate in Greece in 2006/2007 was between 8.3% and 8.5%. The figure for 2013/14 was between 26.4% and 27.8%, while in 2018/19 the monthly unemployment rate was between 16.8% and 18.6%.