Social capital and job search behaviour of long-term welfare recipients

Inge Varekamp (Department of Interdisciplinary Social Science, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.)
Trudie Knijn (Department of Interdisciplinary Social Science, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.)
Martin van der Gaag (Department of Public Administration and Organization Science, VU University, The Netherlands.)
Peter Bos (Department of HRM and Psychology, Fontys University of Applied Sciences, Eindhoven, The Netherlands.)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Publication date: 12 October 2015



Long-term welfare recipients in the Netherlands are either long-term unemployed or part-time employed in jobs that generate incomes below the subsistence level. The question is whether reintegration policies aiming at their return to – a fulltime – job should consider individual social network factors besides psychological and human capital factors. The purpose of this paper is to investigate welfare recipients’ job search behaviour, in particular how individual social capital is distributed, and whether it is related to job search activities.


Standardised and structured interviews were conducted with 189 long-term unemployed welfare recipients. An adapted version of the Resource Generator instrument was used to measure individual access to social capital.


Social capital scales measuring domestic social resources, status-related social resources, expert advice on regulations and financial matters, and advice on finding a job were developed and psychometrically tested. Status-related social resources were more easily accessible to men and higher educated persons. Advice on finding a job was more easily accessible to recently unemployed individuals. Domestic social resources were less accessible to ethnic minorities. Persons with more social capital, specifically status-related social resources and advice in finding a job, showed more active job search behaviour.

Social implications

The differences in job search activities between respondents with more social capital and those with less social capital were present but to a small degree, and therefore there is no argument for reintegration activities to focus on enlarging social capital.


This study addresses the instrumental functions of the social network by multidimensionally scrutinising the resources that social relationships provide access to.



This study is part of the research project “Pathways to Work” and is financially supported by the Stichting Instituut Gak (SIG), grant no. 2006-590.


Varekamp, I., Knijn, T., van der Gaag, M. and Bos, P. (2015), "Social capital and job search behaviour of long-term welfare recipients", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 35 No. 11/12, pp. 738-755.

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