Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Strictly Merit, Indian Style

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Strictly Merit, Indian Style

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "In the Name of Globalization: Meritocracy, Productivity, and the Hidden Language of Caste" by Surinder S. Jodhka and Katherine Newman, in Economic and Political Weekly, Oct. 13, 2007.

THE MERIT PRINCIPLE HAS conquered India. Human resource managers of Indian companies say that the traditional bases of hiring--nepotism, regional ties, and caste--aren't affordable now that India is becoming an economic powerhouse. But India has its own way of judging merit, write sociologists Surinder S. Jodhka of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and Katherine Newman of Princeton. Virtually every hiring manager the two researchers interviewed emphasized that asking questions about family background was critical in evaluating a potential employee. Such questions would be avoided like the plague by American companies fearful of lawsuits over employment discrimination.

A multinational Indian shoe manufacturing company, for example, looks for merit by assessing family characteristics such as the educational level of the parents, the employment history of brothers and sisters, and whether the applicant lives in the city or the country, says its human resources manager. …

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