Networks, case managers, and the job-search experiences of unemployed people
2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Employment services are commonly provided in network settings, but it is rare to find social policy analyses of how unemployed people search for jobs through networks. In a germinal analysis of social networks and employment, Mark Granovetter argued that "weak ties" (less familiar contacts) are more important to finding employment than are "strong ties" (family and friends). This is because weak ties provide more novel job-relevant information. Scholarship since Granovetter has predominantly supported the opposite argument, namely, that strong ties are more important for the unemployed, because they are more plentiful and thus provide more information in aggregate. Findings are also generally coloured by the focus being on "informal" networks or personal contacts. "Formal" networks, as represented most cogently by employment service providers, are absent or underestimated in most social network studies. On the basis of a qualitative study of 80 long-term unemployed people in Australia, incorporating analysis of both informal and formal networks, we argue that although "strong informal" ties are vital to job search, it is also important to consider "weak formal" ties, which can be complementary if and where service organizations are able to supply positive case management experiences.