Discriminatory employment algorithm towards women and disabled

Austria’s employment agency (AMS) tends to introduce an algorithm which reportedly gives lower grades to women and disabled. This is ‘very likely illegal’ under the current anti-discrimination law. According to Johannes Kopf, AMS board member, the algorithm does not breach the article 22 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that prohibits ‘purely automated’ decision-making on individuals. This document shows that, under a certain model, women, disabled, and people over 30 years old are given less points. In addition, women with children are given negative points, while men with children are not. Even if experience and qualification of a man and a woman are the same, the AMS algorithm ‘is likely to assign an unemployed woman to a lower group’. Cathrine Bernard, a law professor at Cambridge University’s and a discrimination law specialist said that ‘such a procedure is likely to fall afoul of Directive 2006/54, the main anti-discrimination instrument in the European Union.’. As a response, Mr Kopf did not deny that the algorithm was discriminatory but contended that AMS was committed to spending half of its resources to support women and that women were underrepresented among the unemployables of group C. Despite promises of transparency, AMS only released two of the 96 statistical models claimed to be used to assess job seekers. Experts and activists, such as AlgorithmWatch, have warned that algorithms ran the risk of replicating structural injustice and prejudices – at scale.

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