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Alternative job search strategies in remote rural and peri-urban labour markets: the role of social networks

Lindsay, Colin and Greig, Malcolm and McQuaid, Ronald (2005) Alternative job search strategies in remote rural and peri-urban labour markets: the role of social networks. Sociologia Ruralis, 45 (1). pp. 53-70. ISSN 0038-0199

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Abstract

This paper examines the importance of informal methods (especially social networking) to the job search strategies used by unemployed people. It compares three areas: a small rural town; a larger, more sparsely populated, remote rural area; and a centrally-located, peri-urban labour market. The analysis is based first on survey research undertaken with 490 job seekers across the study areas. Emerging issues were then followed up during a series of twelve focus groups. The survey research showed that job seekers in the rural study areas were significantly more likely to use social networks to look for work. However, those who had experienced repeated or long-term periods out of work, the unskilled and young people were significantly less likely to use such networks. Focus groups confirmed the perceived importance of social networking to the job search process in rural areas, in contrast to the more marginal role such methods appear to play in peri-urban settings. For many rural job seekers, formal job search activities conducted through Jobcentres were seen as largely symbolic, lacking the practical value of social networking. These results suggest that service providers seeking to assist unemployed people in rural areas need to address the problems faced by many disadvantaged job seekers who are currently caught between their lack of social network relations and the absence of local public employment service facilities in more remote communities.