Being Norwegian and actively Christian might be bad for your job prospects, a new study has suggested.

Driving the news

Edvard Nergård Larsen, a research fellow at the Department of Sociology and Social Geography at the University of Oslo, made the surprising claim that active Christians are discriminated against almost as much as Muslims in Norway, at least in terms of employment.

Along with colleagues, Larsen sent out 18,000 fictitious job applications to companies in Norway, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, and Spain.

In some CVs, the “applicants” stated that they had worked for unnamed either Christian youth organisations, in the case of prospective employees “Kristian” and “Silje”, or Muslim ones, in the case of “Tariq” and “Yasmeen”.

The researchers found that, when they didn’t mention their religious backgrounds, the Norwegian-sounding Kristian and Silje had an advantage over the ethnic-sounding Tariq and Yasmeen.

But when mentioning their involvement in Christian groups, Kristian and Silje had just a 20% chance of being called for an interview, compared to the 10% chance of Tariq and Yasmeen.

Of the five countries studied, Norway was the only one in which self-identifying Christians faced such levels of rejection, the academics found.

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“It is almost as bad to be active in a Christian organisation as to have a Pakistani-sounding name”, Larsen concluded.

The researcher advanced two hypotheses to explain the discrimination against Christians in Norway: either employers find it out of place to mention faith in the context of work, or those same employers are actively prejudiced.

“It is possible that Norwegian employers consider it inappropriate to mention religious activity in a job context more generally”, Larsen explained.

“Being active in a Christian organisation can give employers associations with conservative attitudes more generally”, he added.

But surprisingly enough, the opposite turned out to be true for Muslim-sounding Tariq and Yasmeen: when they identified as Christian, that association had a positive effect for them in terms of prospective employment.

“Being active in a Christian organisation dampens the discrimination they otherwise face”, Larsen explained.

For the record

Norway is a predominantly Christian country, with about 71.5% of its just over 5.3 million people identifying as Evangelical Lutheran.

Catholics make up the next largest Christian group, at about 3.15% of the population, while the unaffiliated make up 16.8%.

Just 2.2% of the Norwegian population identifies as Muslim.

But although the majority of Norwegians are members of the Church of Norway, Karl Jahr, the editor-in-chief of the Christian newspaper Korsets seier, said he often fields queries from Norwegians eager to erase any trace of their Christian affiliation.

That’s because, as Larsen’s study reinforces, a Christian background is often seen as a handicap to employment in the country.

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