Previous studies have established the importance of quality information in determining youth employment outcomes. The effective use of social networks during a job search is considered a key facet of youth’s employability. The informational role of formal or informal sources in employment outcomes is partially explained by the structure of the individual’s social network. The key informational role of networks however, extends beyond the simple diffusion of information about employment opportunities. Social networks are also determinants of early success in the labor market. Studies have found that social class, gender and ethnicity is negatively associated with social capital.
Cross-sectional data were obtained from a sample of South African youth (N = 1,249) who participated in the Siyakha youth employment research project. We measured social network as: (a) total number of people that youth seek for advice and support when it comes to seeking employment, starting a business, or accessing educational opportunities; and (b) number of people that youth seek for advice and support by type of relationship – family, household other than family members, friends, and other acquaintances. Work-seeking behaviors included: (a) whether youth applied for a job in the last 3 months; (b) number of job applications; (c) whether youth attended any job interviews in the last 3 months; and (d) number of job interviews. We analyzed our data using multivariable logistic and negative binomial regression. We also used clustered-robust standard errors to adjust for the clustering of youth within 44 training sites.
Overall, we found that social networks were positively associated with work-seeking behaviors. The more people in youth’s social network was associated with higher likelihood of attending a job interview in the past 3 months (odds ratio [OR]: 1.05, p = .04). We also found that the type of relationship between youth and their social networks was associated with work-seeking behaviors. Among youth who attended a job interview in the past 3 months, every additional family member in youth’s social network was associated with a 6% increase in youth’s rate of job interviews (incidence rate ratio [IRR] = 1.06, p = .01). On the other hand, every additional friend in youth’s social network was associated with a 9% decrease in youth’s rate of job applications (IRR = 0.90, p = .03). Age, gender, relationship status, geographic residence, formal education and training, caregiver status, and mobile phone ownership were also associated with work-seeking behaviors.
Conclusion & Implications
Having access to social capital for youth from resource-limited settings is important for their employability. Increasing social capital for disadvantaged youth, through employment opportunities during workforce development training would boost their social capital and improve youth perceptions of labor market attachment. Youth identify family and neighborhood as determinants of their perceptions for labor market attachment, therefore it is important to bridge the social capital that youth have in their current contexts and realities, with the possibilities outside their circles and contexts to increase their chances of employment. This can be done by increasing the quantity and quality of occupational contact networks.