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Some Conceptional Thoughts on the Impact of Social Networks on Non-farm Rural Employment

By Diana Traikova, Judith Mollers, Jana Fritzsch and Gertrud Buchenrieder

Abstract

Everybody knows: rural regions offer fewer possibilities for non-farm employment than urban areas. For this reason, it was the semi-subsistence farm structures that had to absorb the released workers from the big rural state enterprises and the urban-rural migrants fleeing unemployment in the towns in the course of economic transformation. This has created hidden unemployment in farm households and thus low agricultural labour productivity in the European transition economies. From a policy point of view, it is therefore desirable to promote new jobs outside the farm sector in order to decrease the livelihood dependency on agriculture. But do rural people actually have a choice? And if so, will they go for non-farm employment? In Europe's transition economies rural people taking up non-farm jobs seem to do this predominantly due to distress-push and not so much due to demand-pull factors. The former would imply that distress pushes them to earn money even in very low-paid jobs. The latter indicates better remunerated job options because there is demand. When individuals decide what kind of employment to go for, they consider among other factors also the support they can get from relatives and friends, the opinion of the local society in general, the resources they can mobilize and the barriers they are supposed to overcome. Since the late 1990s, a number of studies have been done with respect to non-farm rural employment (NFRE) and its contribution to rural development. However, the role of social capital and the underlying networks in getting access to NFRE has not yet been researched. The objectives of this paper are to give an overview of the social capital concepts, stressing on bonding, bridging and linking social capital.Rural non-farm employment, social networks, transition, Community/Rural/Urban Development, Labor and Human Capital,

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