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Social networks, accessed and mobilised social capital and the employment status of older workers: A case study

Kaberi Gayen (Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, USA) (Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Dhaka University, Dhaka, Bangladesh)
Robert Raeside (Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK)
Ronald McQuaid (Department of Management Work and Organisation, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 28 May 2019

Issue publication date: 28 May 2019




The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the importance of social networks, and the social capital embedded in them, to secure employment if someone had become unemployed after the age of 50 years and to reveal the process of accessing and mobilising that social capital.


A case study of a Scottish labour market was undertaken which involved an interview-based survey of those who became unemployed in their early 50’s and tried to regain employment. The interview had structured and unstructured parts which allowed both quantitative and qualitative analysis to compare those who were successful in regaining work with those who were not. The uniqueness of the paper is the use of social network components while controlling for other socio-economic and demographic variables in job search of older workers.


Those older people who were unemployed and, returned to employment (reemployed) had a higher proportion of contacts with higher prestige jobs, their job searching methods were mainly interpersonal and the rate of finding their last job via their social networks was higher than those who remained unemployed. Both groups mobilised social capital (MSC), but those reemployed accessed higher “quality” social capital. “Strong ties”, rather than “weak ties”, were found to be important in accessing and mobilising social capital for the older workers who returned to employment.

Research limitations/implications

This work is limited to a local labour market and is based on a small but informative sample. However, it does show that policy is required to allow older people to enhance their social networks by strengthening the social capital embedded in the networks. The results support the use of intermediaries as bridges to help compensate for older people who have weak social networks. Besides the policy implications, the paper also has two distinct research implications. First, the use of social network component to the existing literature of older workers’ job search. Second, exploring the type and relational strength with network members to explain older workers’ reemployment.

Practical implications

The paper illustrates that how accessed and MSC can be measured.

Social implications

As populations age, this work points to an approach to support older people to re-enter employment and to include them in society.


The paper extends social network and employment literature to fill gaps on how older people require to both access and mobilise social capital. The importance of “strong ties” in the reemployment of older workers contrasts with much of the literature on younger workers where the “strength of weak ties” so far has been regarded as essential for successful job search. Measures are forwarded to reveal the relevance of social capital. The policy value of the work is in suggesting ways to facilitate older people re-enter or remain in work and hence sustain their well-being.



The authors would like to thank the two anonymous referees for their guidance in the improvement of this paper, and also to acknowledge funding for the original data gathering as part of the European Social Fund Objective 3 EQUAL, project entitled “Older Workers and their Social Networks”.


Gayen, K., Raeside, R. and McQuaid, R. (2019), "Social networks, accessed and mobilised social capital and the employment status of older workers: A case study", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 39 No. 5/6, pp. 356-375.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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