Social capital and employment for African immigrants in Sweden: Investment in social networks produces socio-economic returns

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för socialt arbete

Abstract: This study titled, Social capital and employment for African immigrants in Sweden aimed at analyzing East African immigrants’ understanding of the role of social capital towards employment of African immigrants in Gothenburg City. The study was guided by these research questions. How is social capital understood among African immigrants living in Gothenburg City? What are the existing forms of social capital among East African immigrants in Gothenburg City? What is the understanding of East African immigrants on the kind of employment that African immigrants do in Gothenburg City? And what are the effects of social networks in relation to employment of East African immigrants in Gothenburg City? An explorative and case study design was used following a qualitative approach. Semi-structured structured interviews were used for information gathering and thematic analysis was employed to analyze the interviews. The study found out that social capital was mainly found in social networks and three forms of social networks among African immigrants were dominant; social networks predominantly consisting of African immigrants who share similar socio-economic status, the second kind is where African immigrants connect with native Swedes and other immigrant groups who are perceived to be better or progressive in terms of employment and other social connections on the labour market and lastly one where African immigrants connect to social institutions that offer different services on the labour market. The last two forms of social networks were said to be more desirable as they are both resource rich with unique resources that are not present in the African immigrants’ dominated networks. The study further found that most African immigrants are highly represented in employment that requires less skills and expertise. This was said to result from the fact that many get job information from fellow African immigrants doing almost the same kind of work. It also came out clearly in the study that the lack of relevant training and the inability to speak the Swedish language was a major barrier to many African immigrants on the labor market. Study findings further revealed that social capital results in socio-economic return. There was a general consensus among the interviewed that most African immigrants get their first jobs through social connections and that social capital is viewed as an investment and a source of social security. It was also said to be a burden in some ways given the fact that it tends to lead to dependency on some progressive members in social networks hence constraining socio-economic success. The study was anchored on Lin’s social resources theory which asserts that access to and use of social resources can lead to better social economic status.

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