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The strong, the weak and the meaningful: Do friends or acquaintances help us get “any” job, or “meaningful” work?

Roger Patulny (Faculty of Law, Humanities and Arts, University of Wollongong , Wollongong, Australia)
Gaby Ramia (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney , Sydney, Australia)
Zhuqin Feng (Faculty of Law, Humanities and Arts, University of Wollongong , Wollongong, Australia)
Michelle Peterie (School of Social Science, University of Queensland , Brisbane, Australia)
Greg Marston (School of Social Science, University of Queensland , Brisbane, Australia)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 29 April 2019

Issue publication date: 28 May 2019

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Abstract

Purpose

Governments increasingly promote employment through social networks (whether via formal job networks or informal personal networks). However, they rarely account for how weak-tie “bridging” networks and strong-tie “bonding” networks differentially affect employment outcomes. Given criticism that (usually weak-tie bridging-focussed) formal job networks are overly focussed on finding entry-level (i.e. any) jobs, it is imperative to understand the impact of strong and weak ties on securing work with good conditions, or of meaning to the worker. Such links are poorly understood in the present literature. The paper aims to discuss this issue.

Design/methodology/approach

This study uses national Australian survey data to assess whether support from close “friends” or distant “acquaintances” is associated with employment outcomes such as finding any work or “meaningful” work.

Findings

The results show that relatively distant ties (close acquaintances) and emotional support from friends are each associated with reduced chances of being an unemployed/discouraged worker. Stronger ties (close friends) are associated with better chances of a having a “meaningful” job.

Practical implications

More attention should be paid to tie strength dynamics and meaningful employment outcomes in the delivery of employment services. In particular, a role for active “close-tie brokers” in promoting networks should be investigated, instead of expecting/pushing the unemployed to rely on either extremely close or distant connections.

Originality/value

This is the first study to find a link between network type and meaningful work, which has important implications for the delivery of employment services.

Keywords

Citation

Patulny, R., Ramia, G., Feng, Z., Peterie, M. and Marston, G. (2019), "The strong, the weak and the meaningful: Do friends or acquaintances help us get “any” job, or “meaningful” work?", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 39 No. 5/6, pp. 376-394. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-11-2018-0193

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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