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A new study in sociology shows that those who have a strong social network find it easier to work through established contacts and through direct employment with employers, than through employment services.

The study also highlights that good self-confidence helps the jobseeker to establish themselves on the labour market.

“The results show that applicants with high social capital are more likely to receive information about new jobs from their social network, but less likely to use public services such as Swedish Public Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen). People with less resourceful social networks, on the other hand, must rely on the job search services that are offered” said sociologist Anton Bjuggren Andersson.


Anton Bjuggren Andersson, PhD in Sociology, Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI)

The study shows that it takes longer to get established on the labour market for those who do not have a social network.

“Through the study, we can also understand inequality in the labour market. Young adults who do not have social networks or can’t work effectively to enter the labour market don’t have the same chances of getting an established job. Those who turn to the Swedish Public Employment Service do not have as good a network and often need to use this type of service in their job search” said Anton Bjuggren Andersson.

The results are based on survey responses among young people aged 19-22, where the researchers have investigated the role of social capital. Most of the group have finished high school and are in the phase of applying for their first job. The survey results are then linked to income registers.

“The measure of social capital that is used here is the number of different professions you know someone in, i.e. how broad your social network is. The social network consists of relatives and friends where friends make up the majority.”

Is there anything in the results that surprises you?

“One thing that is surprising, is that this matter is not just about getting a job through friends and acquaintances, but also that young people make direct applications to employers via contacts, and getting to know about jobs that haven’t been advertised but shared though your network. You may not have a direct connection to the employer, but you have more information about companies searching for new employees, than those that do not have a social network.

Anton Bjuggren Andersson believes that these results are important in a Swedish context because the role of labour market policy is to compensate for those who have weaker networks. Important actors who should take part in the study are those who work with labour market policy, such as the Swedish Public Employment Service.

“The results are important because today one might easily believe that everyone can get a job through contacts, and that the Swedish Public Employment Service is no longer useful for the public. But in that case, you don’t have the insight that it’s not as easy for everyone – different people may need different things.”
Read more about the study  Social capital and self-efficacy in the process of youth entry into the labour market: Evidence from a longitudinal study in Sweden


Anton B. Andersson, PhD in Sociology at the Swedish Institute for Social Reserach, Stockholm University