Programs to attract more minorities into federal jobs will force the governement to drop or sharply revise the complex system it now uses to identify and label -- by race and "ethnicity" -- each of its 2.6 million workers.
Administration officials are committed to making the federal establishment "more representative" of this nation's race and ethnic mix. Hispanics are the only ethnic group counted.
Efforts to find more minority job candidates are being spurred by changing federal recruiting efforts, new programs making it easier to bring "underrepresented" minorities into government, and boosting recruiting in Hispanic areas, through Spanish-language ads.
Minorities now make up about 23 percent of the federal work force. Most are in the lower and middle pay grades.
The current program Uncle Sam uses to collect race and ethnic data on civil servants has produced a system that is controversial and has brought protests from organized groups of Jews, Italian-Americans and Polish-Americans who are not counted as minorities.
Developing new guidelines, borrowing old definitions and mixing them has created some interesting situations. Although persons of Spanish descent or with Spanish surnames are considered an ethnic group, the government (using old HEW guidelines for another program) does not recognize persons of Portuguese or Branzilian descent as ethnics.
Individuals from the "Indian-sucontinent," that is, Indians and Pakistanis, now considered "white", may be put under the category of "asian or Pacific Islanders" like Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Samoans, etc.
Under existing guidelines that may have to be junked, the government asks many new job applicants to fill out separate "confidential" self-designation forms. They list race and whether the persons considers himself or herself as Hispanic or non-Hispanic.
Regular federal workers are racial-"eyeball" system. Supervisors observe employes and report, using special forms, what they think is the employes' race, and ethnic background.
Data on race and ethnicity is used for a variety of purposes. One is to determine the percentage of minorities by agency, geographic location, job, grade and pay.
President Carter's new civil service reform act contains a provision -- authored largely by Rep. Robert Garcia (D-N.Y.) -- that requires agencies to make special efforts to recruit minorities that are "underrepresented" by occupation, location or in overall agency employment totals. Various methods are to be used to determine what the representative number or percentage will be.
The method of determining employe race and ethnicity may have to be changed because one of Carter's reorganizations shifted responsibility for setting those guidelines from one agency -- the Office of Management and Budget -- to another, the Commerce Department.
The government will be expected to use Commerce's guidelines. They list five racial groups -- "America Indian or Alaskan Native; Asian or Pacific Islander; Black; White and Other." In addition, Commerce has two categories of "ethnicity," Hispanic and non-Hispanic.
Current guidelines, under which most of the 2.6 million federal workers have been identified are: "Employes in Guam or Hawaii; Negro; Spanish-surnamed; American Indian; Oriental; Aleut employment in Alaska; Eskimo employment in Alaska; none of these; non-Hispanic in Puerto Rico."
In an attempt at "linkage" between the two different classification systems, the Office of Personnel Management -- the agency that manages civil service matters for the president -- has developed the following links:
The category of "Oriental" may be revised to exclude persons of "Hispanic ethnicity." Experts say this will affect persons of Filipino extraction. The "Negro" category will be revised to exclude black Hispanics. The complex guidelines also say that "h and i" (h is 'none of these' while i is 'non-Hispanic in Puerto Rico") will be listed under the "white" category "minus those who marked Hispanic ethnicity." l
When the changes are made, officials hope to get a complete accurate picture of the race and ethnic makeup of the government. That data will be used to determine new recruiting efforts to attract more minorities.