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Jobs study pits 'who you know' against 'where you go'


11 July 2014

Jobseekers are commonly told "it's who you know" when searching for employment.

Now researchers from the University of Sydney will put that old adage to the test as they begin a landmark study into how formal and informal networks affect employment outcomes for the long-term and youth unemployed.

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Gaby Ramia of the Graduate School of Government, said the significance of both formal and informal job networks is sharply in focus, after the Federal Budget.

"Under measures announced in the Federal Budget, some categories of younger unemployed people will, if the measures are passed in the Senate, be without income for up to six months," said Associate Professor Ramia.

"Having an income in the form of government benefits can be an important gateway to better formal and informal networks, which means better employment chances. Our project can produce evidence on whether a lack of income over time - if current proposals go through - might be partly offset by strong formal or informal networks. In short, we can make policy recommendations on how income interacts with policy, employment service organisations and the jobless person's informal networks," he added.

Informal networks refer to the relationships that jobseekers have with others, chiefly family, friends and other social contacts. Formal (or policy) networks refer to the relationships that jobseekers have with organisations and clients interacting in the design and delivery of unemployment services.

The research will focus on long-term jobless and young jobless, two groups that are seen as the most disadvantaged in the Australian labour market, and therefore of high priority for industry and government.

"As well as being a scholarly study, the project is about making recommendations to government about how to increase wellbeing and employability among Australia's unemployed," said Associate Professor Ramia.

The research team includes Professor Greg Marston of the Queensland University of Technology and Dr Roger Patulny of the University of Wollongong. By conducting in-depth interviews and focus groups with jobless people and employment service providers, the team will answer vital questions about Australian long-term and youth unemployment, such as:

  • Do jobless Australians have smaller, weaker and less diverse networks?
  • Do formal networks compensate for job referrals and help given by the friends, family and social connections of the long-term jobless?
  • How do formal networks compensate for the less effective informal networks of the long-term jobless through support, training and maintaining wellbeing?
  • How do formal networks compensate by overcoming negative connections and bad role modeling?

The research is in partnership with Job Futures, Australia's only national network of community-based and not-for-profit organisations, and is funded under the Australian Research Council Linkage Grants.


Co-investigators
Greg Marston, Queensland University of Techonology; Roger Patulny, University of Wollongong; Louise Ward, Job Futures.



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Media enquiries
Luke O'Neill, (02) 9114 1961, 0481 012 600, luke.oneill@sydney.edu.au