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Icelandic Name Was Ticket to Interviews

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Icelandic Name Was Ticket to Interviews

Demonstration

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

A Polish-born woman, who moved to Iceland at the age of 13, believes immigrants are discriminated against in the labor market. “After completing a BS degree in business, it was very difficult to get a job,” Malgorzata Katrín Molenda told RÚV. “I had to drop my foreign name and use only my [Icelandic] middle name, which is Katrín, to be offered interviews. As soon as I did that, I was invited to an interview.”

Katrín claims she knows of many immigrants whose education is not recognized, and who have low-paying jobs, despite holding a university degree.

RÚV reported Wednesday that Anna Margrét Ólafsdóttir, preschool director at Nóaborg, Reykjavík, has witnessed employers’ discrimination against foreign-born parents. On several occasions, she has received phone calls from employers, furious that their employees have been asked to pick up their child from school, because the child was ill, or the school short-staffed. Anna reported that in all those cases, the parents were immigrants, working low-paying jobs. In one instance at least, the parent was not given permission to leave work to pick up the child when the school was short-staffed.

Katrín claims that immigrant workers who call in sick are sometimes denied pay for sick days. Employers have also been known to call doctors to ask them to confirm that the person in question is sick.

Katrín now works as a representative for VR union, where her role is to visit work places and make sure workers’ rights are not violated.

She encourages foreign workers to become informed about their rights and to fight for them. The gender pay gap has been much discussed, she noted, but we must bring attention to the way we treat foreign workers. This is an area where research is needed, she concluded.

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