8.1 Introduction

It is well-acknowledged that personal relationships have a fundamental effect on individuals’ labour market participation through providing useful job-related information (Granovetter, 1995; Montgomery, 1991; Mouw, 2003). Scholars interested in migrants’ labour market incorporation have also paid ample attention to the ways in which personal relationships matter, closely following the works of Granovetter (1973) and Putnam (2000). Granovetter (1973) asserts that weak ties are ‘better’ conduits of job-related information because such ties are contacted occasionally by the job seekers and more importantly, they also belong to other networks, so that the information provided is non-redundant. In contrast, ‘strong’ ties are characterized as those persons with intimate emotional closeness, reciprocal exchanges, and frequent contacts. Thus, they possess similar information regarding the labour market and considered not as useful as the weak ties. Similarly, Putnam (2000) defines bridging and bonding ties based on similarities and differences between social groups. While bonding ties are indicative of within group similarities, bridging ties are to those in different social groups. Drawing on these strands of network research, migration scholars have equated strong ties to in-group bonding ties and weak ties to out-group bridging ties, conflating group boundaries mainly based on ethnicity (see introduction chapter of the book). In other words, co-ethnic ties are conceptualized as bonding and strong ties, whereas ties to the native-born population are bridging and weak (e.g. Kanas et al., 2011; Lancee, 2012). The findings of studies defining group boundaries mainly by ethnicity, indicate that on the one hand, bridging ties to the native population are the most important to establish for migrants because they might have useful insider information on the labour market and know the rules of the game (e.g. how to write a CV, how to dress for a job interview). On the other hand, bonding strong co-ethnic ties are usually considered to have redundant information about the labour market opportunities. However, the critiques of this simplistic dichotomization of personal ties based on ethnicity, argue that social positions, and therefore, resources that can be drawn from such ties are more relevant for the labour market than the ethnicity of ties (Bilecen, 2021; Ryan, 2011). Furthermore, personal networks might operate differently leading to different consequences for male and female migrants in the labour market (Bilecen & Seibel, 2021; Curran et al., 2005). Previous studies show that women’s disproportionate involvement in household work and having less paid employment positions result in networks with more kin relations and less colleagues compared to men’s (Marsden, 1987). Moreover, ample evidence pinpoints to the gendered nature of the labour markets mainly based on segregation of educational and occupational trajectories together with cultural and normative understandings of work and family life constellations (e.g. Charles, 2011; Duncan & Pfau-Effinger, 2002) leading especially migrant women to have smaller and more homogeneous networks in terms of socio-economic and ethnic background. As a result, women usually are acknowledged to have less diverse job information and lack influential ties in terms of social positions (Trimble & Kmec, 2011). This is concerning especially given the evidence that migrants tend to rely on their personal ties to find jobs.

Despite the much excellent previous work, two issues remain partially unanswered in migration scholarship. First, I argue that the general supportive network migrants are embedded in is decisive for their employment, not only those who receive useful job information. Several studies emphasize the importance of social networks for job-related information transmission (Burt, 1992; Granovetter, 1973, 1995) and its impact for migrant labour market adaptation (Griesshaber & Seibel, 2015; Kanas et al., 2011; Seibel & van Tubergen, 2013). Such studies usually investigate one aspect of networks related to employment by comparing who are already employed and asking them whether and how their personal ties were helpful in doing so. However, being embedded in a socially supportive network has also benefits that might be important in finding a job. For instance, if an individual is surrounded by personal ties providing care for children or for sick relatives, she can have time to search for a job or keep the job by being able to carry on the necessary tasks. Particularly for migrant mothers formal childcare is the key for their labour market participation (Boeckmann et al., 2014). In parallel to the formal childcare, being able to rely on someone, female migrants can trust with their children is crucial for their employment. In this case, perhaps not finding a new job but keeping the current one. Therefore, I argue in this chapter that having a supportive network is as equally important as receiving information on possible job openings to find and keep jobs. To this end, asking participants to draw their network maps with all potential supportive ties and later whether they have received any useful job information or social support proved to be useful to assess the importance of ties in relation to the labor market outcomes as I will demonstrate.

Second, usually studies focus on what migrants get from their personal ties in order to have better life chances such as in the realm of employment or education (Aguilera & Massey, 2003; Drever & Hoffmeister, 2008; Griesshaber & Seibel, 2015; Kanas et al., 2011; Lancee & Hartung, 2012). Thus, the exchange of resources is largely neglected (Bilecen, 2019, 2020). Nonetheless, studies of social norms show us that once a favour is received, individuals are usually bound by the expectation of its return later, known as reciprocity (Gouldner, 1960; Plickert et al., 2007). Thus, studies on reciprocity as a norm inform the current research which makes imperative not only which resources migrants receive from their personal networks, but also to investigate which ones they provide to have a more nuanced understanding of network properties influencing labour market outcomes for migrants. Recent scholarship on reciprocity as a social mechanism governing a variety of resource exchanges in migrants’ lives have pinpointed to mismatches between the givers and receivers that has implications for perceived social inequalities (Bilecen, 2020; Bilecen et al., 2015; Dankyi et al., 2015; Sienkiewicz et al., 2015). To address these two gaps, based on 20 qualitative interviews conducted with Turkish first-generation migrants and migrant descendants in Germany, the role of support exchanges will be examined to understand the patterns of migrants’ labour market participation.

8.2 Conceptual Framework

8.2.1 Migrants’ Social Support Networks and Employment

Social networks, in which migrants are embedded, have been consistently found to be crucial for the production and persistence of different forms of inequalities – in finding jobs (Crul et al., 2017; Granovetter, 1973, 1985), housing (Van Meeteren & Pereira, 2018), and securing better health conditions (Bilecen et al., 2015; Menjivar, 2002). Knowing diverse people who have resources such as information, brings advantages, while having a closed social circle may cause redundancy of resources, and thus disadvantage, pinpointing the importance of the network structure (Burt, 2005). So is social isolation that makes migrants’ more prone to having diverse health problems (Hurtado-de-Mendoza et al., 2014).

In terms of social relationships’ content, types of ties have acknowledged to be important in getting such useful resources (Wellman & Wortley, 1990). While people may go to concerts with their partners or friends, they tend to ask for help at the workplace from a colleague. For example, Small (2017), studying confidants, found that type of relationships matters in terms of in whom people confide and receive emotional support from. In other words, not only the tie strength and network structure but also who gives what kind of resources with what consequences matters. This is also the case particularly for migrants whose personal relationships are scattered around a variety of geographical locations which give them plenty of resources to mobilize for personal or professional reasons (Bilecen & Cardona, 2018; Gold, 2001; Ryan & Mulholland, 2014). Linking different individuals across a variety of locales and geographies, migrants can withdraw different resources, however this also comes with disadvantages mainly when hands-on care is needed (Ryan, 2007).

Investigating migrants’ social relationships, earlier studies pinpointed to gendered differences especially in finding jobs (Huffman & Torres, 2002). Migrant women generally have fewer ties to the native population than migrant men (Seibel, 2020) and also use their ties for gender-specific resources. For instance, propinquity especially for migrants’ childcare arrangements have been found to be decisive (Ryan, 2007). Studying Irish nurses in Britain, Ryan (2007) found that women tend to make strong local friendships in addition to their family ties, who are crucial for emotional and other tangible support. Another example is the study conducted by Bojarczuk and Mühlau (2018) investigating childcare support networks with Polish migrant mothers. They conclude that migrant mothers’ in Dublin tend to rely predominantly on their local networks as this type of support usually necessitates physical proximity.

While gender differences of networks and job finding patterns have been a research interest, generational differences have not yet been on the spotlight. However, differences between first-generation migrants and their descendants exist not only with regards to migration decision-making but to also their different socialization, education, and therefore, personal networks and resources inherent in them. After all, migrant descendants witness personal sacrifices their parents might have done in raising them in transnational social spaces – trying to preserve cultural norms and traditions while tackling to overcome institutional and structural disadvantages. Moreover, some of migrants’ descendants were raised with higher educational expectations, so that they would have upward social mobility (e.g. Keskiner, 2015; Louie, 2012). Besides, in terms of network differences, based on a nationally representative survey, comparing first-generation migrants with the second generation from Morocco and Turkey in the Netherlands, van Tubergen (2014) found that the second generation have larger networks than the first-generation. However, the same study shows that it does not necessarily translate into more socio-economic resources for the second generation. Therefore, there is a need to look for differences in personal networks in terms of migration generation.

8.2.2 Reciprocity Within Migrants’ Social Support Networks

Sahlins (1972) has specified three types of reciprocity: generalized, balanced and negative. Generalized reciprocity is giving away a resource or a gift without the concrete expectation to receive anything in return. It indicates mainly to a solidary behaviour. However, balanced reciprocity is seen more in economic turns where the giver expects something in return and preferably in a short-term. Negative reciprocity indicates an exploitative relationship between two parties where one would like to get more than s/he gives. According to Gouldner (1960) reciprocity is both a norm and a pattern of exchange between dyads or more persons. Reciprocity as a norm refers to the idea that once a resource is given, it is bound by expectation, and in some cases even by obligation, of return later in time and in some sort of a matching valued resource. So, it mainly refers to the Golden Rule or the balanced reciprocity by Sahlins (1972) – “Reciprocity – doing for others if they have done for you – is a key way people mobilize resources to deal with daily life and seize opportunities” (Plickert et al., 2007). It implies a social function and plays a larger role going beyond a transaction between just two individuals. Reciprocity as a pattern of mutually contingent exchange refers to the idea of alternating resources in practice which fluctuates over time with (im)balances. As a norm, reciprocity entails a solidary behaviour between individuals or with group members. Therefore, repayment of a favour can be extended over time and directed towards others in a given network, working like an extended credit (Offer, 2012). It is usually observed within families through intergenerational support relationships where the kind of support is not necessarily the same and extended over the lifecourse (Antonucci, 1990).

Reciprocity is a social norm guiding individual behaviour and expectations within social networks (Faist et al., 2015; Hansen, 2004; Plickert et al., 2007). Both parties need to agree on the value of the exchanged resources, because when the perceived values do not match imbalances surface (Bilecen, 2020). Over time or due to international migration, persons’ valuation may change indicating that some resources may become more valuable such as emotional support whereas others may lose their previous importance or simply forgotten such as childcare as the children grow up.

While international migrants have usually been found to send financial remittances to their families back in their countries of origin, there is also evidence that such supportive resources are being reciprocated within local and transnational networks (Barglowski et al. 2015b; Bilecen et al., 2015; Dankyi et al., 2015; Sienkiewicz et al., 2015). For instance, studying migrants’ left-behind children in Ghana, Dankyi et al. (2015) found that they were taken care of by extended family members with limited resources whereas reciprocation of childcare is often done with inadequate or irregular financial remittances by migrants residing in the Netherlands. Sienkiewicz et al. (2015) found that Kazakh migrants in Germany send goods with symbolic value and not necessarily with material value because they cannot afford them. Nonetheless, in order to save their face with their relatives in Kazakhstan they send something of a lesser value highlighting the pressure to reciprocate. Studying left-behind family members in migrant-households in Kerala, India, Ugargol and Bailey (2020) found not only gendered patterns of reciprocity in care relationships, but also frustrations and conflicts due to failing to recognize the needs, imbalanced or non-reciprocation of care.

Phillimore et al. (2018) argued that some of their migrant respondents did not ask for any resources or avoid social contact altogether, so that they would not need to be obligated to return the favours. Similarly, Bilecen (2020) found evidence that nonmigrant friends in Turkey tend to avoid asking for resources from their migrant friends in Germany not only because in the eyes of the stayers, movers have everything they need, but more so, they had the fear of expected reciprocation which might not be evaluated as equal to the initial favour done by the migrants.

8.3 Research Design and Sample

The data for this chapter emanates from an international research project that investigates transnational social protection patterns of strategies by migrants and nonmigrants as well as the related social inequalities. The empirical data collected in that project relies on personal network analysis and qualitative semi-structured interviews with labour migrants and refugees from Turkey living in Germany and their significant others in Turkey between 2011 and 2013. Document analysis, expert interviews, and participant observations also were collected (for a detailed methodological description, see Barglowski et al. 2015a; Bilecen, 2020). An international team devised the data collection guidelines collectively. Both the qualitative interviews and personal network analysis were collected in Turkish.

Data collection was realized in five steps. First, network maps with concentric circles were presented to the respondents and the following name-generator question was asked to generate the network of the interviewee (ego): “From time to time, most people need assistance, be it in the form of smaller or bigger tasks or favours. Within the past one year who are the people with whom you usually exchange such assistance?’. The interviewees were left free to put as many contacts (called “alters”) as they wanted into the network maps according to their perceived importance of their alters ranging from the most important to unimportant in four concentric circles. It is based on hierarchical network mapping technique of social support (Antonucci, 1986). Because the way name-generator is asked, the networks constructed refer to potential supportive networks (Gottlieb & Bergen, 2010).

Second, the respondents were asked to describe their contacts in terms of their age, gender, nationality, geographical location, type and duration of their relationship, frequency of their contact in order to understand their network composition. Third, to analyze network structure, the respondents were asked to report whether their alters know one another one-by-one. Fourth, a 17-item questions about resource exchanges were asked in order to determine their mutuality. Last, but not least, while the network maps were still present in the sight of the respondents, semi-structured interviews were conducted. The network maps made the participants to think about their significant others and made them realize what kind of protection they had exchanged. Later in the interview process, the participants reflected more on their relationships, quality and content of the protective resources while indicating the reasoning behind what happened and the way in which it happened. The interviews revolved around the participants’ assessments of resource exchanges, in addition to their migration biography, education, employment situation, family ties, friendship relationships, and perceived (dis-)advantages. Having the network map with concrete contacts visualized, participants described their relationships in detail and commented on their ties as well as their changing aspects over time due to migration. I have also conducted participant observations through attending family gatherings, such as breakfasts and birthdays, and lending circles organized by women over 2 years (Bilecen, 2019). Despite the fact that it is only a sample of Turkish migrants in Germany, and therefore cannot be generalized to the whole migrant population, the long relationships developed in the fieldwork over the years, led me to engage in many other migrants’ lives who are not in the sample, yet appear in the fieldnotes. Such informal conversations with neighbours, artists, medical personnel, friends of friends and field observations complements the existing ethnographic fieldwork (Bilecen, 2020). All the network analysis and interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. For this chapter, thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2013) was performed for the qualitative material where main themes already existed emanating from previous analyses.

Table 8.1 gives an overview of the sample which is composed of ten male and ten female migrants. When their length of stay is examined further, it is clear that the sample of this study is composed of those migrants who have been in Germany for rather a long time, roughly around 20 years. Migrant status indicates the participants’ reasons for migration. While labor migrants and those who came to unite with their families are the first-generation migrants, those who are regarded migrant descendants who were either came as infants or born, socialized and educated in Germany. In the sample, there are also three asylum seekers indicating their reason for entry into Germany, whereas at the time of the interview one of them Sema, had a refugee status and searching for a paid employment position, and the other two were siblings who were naturalized.

Table 8.1 Main characteristics of the respondents

8.4 Personal Support Networks and Labour Market Participation: Migrants’ Perspectives

For the analysis of this chapter three interviews from the same family were selected to illustrate in-depth the supportive resource exchanges in migrants’ and their descendants’ personal networks. Those three participants are Nilgün, Bora is her son and Berrin is her daughter-in-law, Bora’s wife. Moreover, participant observations at different occasions with the extended family of Nilgün and Bora as well as Berrin’s family living in another city in the same state are also incorporated in the analysis. Over the years, I had several opportunities to observe the extended family not only during their regular everyday lives but also during special occasions such as family dinners, breakfasts and weddings. While the chosen participants are not representative neither this study’s sample nor all the Turkish migrants in Germany, nonetheless they illustrate the content and meaning of personal ties that are important in the labour market participation for migrants and their descendants.

8.4.1 Nilgün

In 1978 at the age of 31, Nilgün came to Germany within the framework of family reunification following her husband, who was recruited as a guest worker at a car manufacturing plant together with his brother. She did not receive any formal education. She has been a homemaker and dedicated her life to her four children. At the time of the interview her husband was already retired and three sons and one daughter were working in different sectors in Germany which she was very proud of. Her husband’s pension was not that much, but she was nevertheless quite content to have many children surrounding and helping her at all times ranging from small daily tasks including help in household chores like cooking or cleaning, to bigger ones including home improvements both in Germany and in Turkey. Being illiterate and having four children, she has never been actively involved in the labour market. Although she had opportunities in the cleaning sector in Germany, she has decided not to work in order to take care of her children. She explained her decision and its consequences on different occasions:

‘I didn’t dream of money or work, we [with her husband] thought our children should grow up with manners, that was our desire. Our children are our wealth, thank God […] Of course, working with people you get along with would be nice, for me being a homemaker is something good for me but if I would have worked and then retired it would have been much better, I mean economically. With the children, it was not possible for me [to work] […] Now because I haven’t worked, my husband’s pension is not that much for both of us […] Some months I get [economic] help from my eldest son to make the ends meet, what can I do? He is such a good son, he wouldn’t even make me ask for that.’

In the beginning of the interview, Nilgün was squinting at the sociogram I brought, though avoiding my questions to fill that in. When her daughter Fatma came into the room to serve tea and said that Nilgün was illiterate. During that first interview but also later on many occasions Nilgün talked about the importance of education because she always wanted to, but did not have the opportunity. As a result, she always felt very dependent on her husband throughout her life and nowadays more so economically on her children. Hence, she put a lot of effort in her children’s education as she perceived it as the key to being independent and success in the labor market, thus, a better life. This might seem a unique case in terms of education and employment as Nilgün sought neither of them in Germany. But because she has never received formal education, she put a lot of emphasis on children’s education and told me that she made sure that they have ‘good educational degrees’. Her high educational aspirations for her children shaped her descendants’ education and employment trajectories closely which will also be discussed in the later subsections. While two of her children obtained higher education degrees, two other had vocational degrees.

In her network map (Fig. 8.1), aligned with the literature showing women’s networks mainly composed of kin relationships (e.g. Marsden, 1987), Nilgün listed only her family members mainly living in Germany, one brother and his wife in the Netherlands, and her two sisters in Turkey. Nilgün has never sought information about jobs from her contacts and has never considered herself to be in a place to give information on such matters. She gives her children and husband constant care not only in terms of doing the household chores regularly such as cooking, cleaning, and doing the laundry, but also through minding her two grandchildren after their school hours, so that her daughter Fatma can work. Moreover, Nilgün takes care of her family when they have healthcare issues ranging from minor to major illnesses. For example, she makes sure that her husband takes his medication every day on time and organizes family breakfasts or dinners. In addition, she also makes sure every family member gets enough support not only when they are sick but also when they need daily practical help. She acts as an organizer for a smooth support flow in the family that is for her also a prerequisite for her children’s educational success. As she explained supportive relations in her family and her role:

‘I know it’s not like a regular job you go everyday, but home also needs regular maintanence like cleaning, tidying up, thinking what to buy, what is needed, I mean, I cook everyday, for that I need to be prepared all the time. When my children were younger, they were coming home from school hungry. I needed to feed them and with good meals, so that they can grow up and concentrate on their schools and be successful. Back then my husband was earning good money, we could spend but also save some of it. This requires also a lot of organizing all around, so that children have a regularity […] Sometimes we hear children who could not keep up with the school here [in Germany], they go out, drink alcohol, use drugs. Who wants these things for their children? Nobody, of course! But for that not to happen you need to work at home hard. A neat family environment is needed, so I made a nice home with good food, clean and safe environment. […] My husband has never hit my children which is very common in other families I hear. For us, our children’s well-being and success is the most important […] This is how we brought up our children, and it even continues today, when they need any help they come to us and when we need help we go to them. I feel responsible to make sure everyone feels this familyhood and being supported because we live in another country, it is already very difficult but we all have each other’s back. […] Sometimes if they cannot really tell to their sister or brothers what they need, if one of them has more, I make sure that they all share what they have and help the one in need.’

Nilgün mentioned that her daughter Fatma and daughter-in-law Berrin were mostly helpful in household tasks such as cleaning or cooking or taking her to gynecologist, whereas her sons were more helpful in fixing small items at home, moving stuff around, or doing grocery shopping. Her accounts were also well-resonated with other participants of this study, pinpointing to a gendered understanding of care relations (e.g. Bilecen, 2019, 2020; Bilecen et al., 2019). Some resources such as money Nilgün receives was reciprocated in terms of care relations either to the same person like her husband but also other family members such as her grandchildren. While Nilgün stated that she has been taking care of her grandchildren usually at her daughter’s home, when she needed help at the doctor’s it is usually her daughter accompanying Nilgün mainly for translation. It is in line with previous research that also found generalized reciprocity within intergenerational family relations of migrants (Baykara-Krumme & Fokkema, 2019; Dankyi et al., 2015; Ugargol & Bailey, 2020). For Nilgün, such exchanges refer to the meaning of familyhood:

‘Children are very important to us [her and her husband]. If there were 50 [children], all 50 would have been very important […] I look after them [children and grandchildren], it’s my priority […] My oldest son calls me regularly and asks if I need anything, he sometimes does shopping for us […] My daughter and daughter-in-law helps me in the house but they also drive me to doctor’s when I need […] that’s life, those things are what makes a family a family.’

While it seems that Nilgün supports only her daughter in terms of childcare, it is not that her other children also need childcare and Nilgün is not available for them, but rather it is about their needs. Nilgün narrated that Bora just got married (has no children yet), Ender has adult children who does not need care, and Yusuf has young children yet lives in another city. For her, being in another city prevents Nilgün to give hands-on childcare when support is needed (e.g. Bojarczuk & Mühlau, 2018; Ryan, 2007) and she was missing her grandchildren very much. Time to time, when they could see each other, Nilgün also made sure that they spend time together. Nonetheless, she perceived that in general she can rely on Yusuf for other types of support, mainly for financial and healthcare emergencies. When she has been in Turkey, she used to spend time with her sisters’ children and grandchildren, and she perceived this as a way of socializing opportunity, to get to know extended family members, so that keeping up the familyhood.

Fig. 8.1
figure 1

Nilgün’s network map

NOTE: On the network maps, drawn with the software VennMaker (Figs. 8.1, 8.2 and 8.3), information exchange is indicated with a dashed-dotted line, care relations with a dotted line, and financial protection with a straight line. The more types of provision or receipt of protection an actor is involved in, the thicker the arrows. Arrows indicate directionality of the exchange, the absence of arrows in the relation indicate their bidirectionality. In some figures only two importance circles are shown only when there were no respondents in the remaining circles. The aim is to have a close up view of supportive resource exchanges

8.4.2 Bora: Nilgün’s Son

Bora was Nilgün’s third child after Ender and Fatma. He arrived in Germany in 1978 at the age of six after finishing the first year of primary school in their village. Bora told that initially the family lived apart for a while and it was his mother who convinced his father to apply for family reunification. For him, that was a very good decision, so that he could have ‘better’ life chances. He narrated:

‘Actually it was my mother who wanted to come to Germany I think mainly because she wanted us to get a good education […] We have a lot of relatives across Europe, such as in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Denmark. They are mostly from my mother’s side of the family. Over the years, I guess she saw how her own cousins are doing but also how my cousins are doing and also wanted for us a good future. It’s not an easy decision of course, given that she is not educated, but I think she is really brave, she took us all here believing in our capacity that we can do much better here like in the school and also later as a job. I think it was a very good decision for us [as a family]. I owe my education today to my parents, they brought us here and they were always there for us as much as they could.’

Inspired and supported by Nilgün, Bora also attributed education as the key for a ‘good future’ because it is the best way to get a ‘good employment position’. In his opinion, he had a well-paying job but it is something he was doing for a transition period to a more prestigious job. Migrating to Germany as a child, he had to endure some difficulties including not always getting selected for teams at school or some unhelpful teachers. Nonetheless, he was enrolled at a university to study law which is acknowledged to be a difficult and highly-selective trajectory (see the chapter by Lang, Pott & Schneider, 2022 in this book, for the educational context of law studies in Germany). At the time of the interview, he was getting ready for his last chance to take the state exam with the aim to become a lawyer, which he found very difficult and time-intensive education. He was not regretful to study law, although he knew ‘it would be a difficult road not only to study, but also to pass the final exam, have a two year compulsory internship, then later find a job’. The idea of being able to help to the disadvantaged attracted him the most despite such adversities. In order to sustain his livelihood in the exam preparation period, he had a part-time job as an assistant construction manager which he found through his friend 6 who had also been financially helpful, as shown in Fig. 8.2. He also applied through formal channels to other jobs which were more closely related to his studies, however, none of them worked out.

Fig. 8.2
figure 2

Bora’s network map

In Bora’s network map, it can be seen that not only he has access to many other ties in comparison to his mother (Fig. 8.1) and wife (Fig. 8.3), but he also activates them much more. In addition to extended family members, Bora named six friends, three of whom in Germany have German nationality (friends 2, 4, and 6), while the other two are Turkish migrant descendants (friends 1 and 3). While he mostly gave financial support to his parents and wife, he was in a reciprocal exchange relationships in terms of care and informational support to a large extent. In terms of job information specifically, he reported to have reciprocal exchanges with his wife Berrin, brother Ender, friends 3 and 6, and father-in-law. Such exchanges were composed of informing one another about new job openings where they know someone hiring or informing about a new sector where Bora might like to work in addition to his studies. Moreover, after finding his job through his friend, Bora also made his brother Ender, a real estate agent, to collaborate with him to find new construction projects. In addition, he received job information from his father, second brother Yusuf, sister Fatma, his friend 5, Buğra in Turkey, while he gave such information to his niece and nephews who were searching for internships or part-time employment as well as to his in-laws, as some of them were self-employed and looking to expand their business. For instance, Buğra was a lawyer in Turkey and had his own practice. Bora received a lot of information about legal jobs in Turkey as he considered to work in Turkey as a second and another temporary option in case if he would not be able to find a job in Germany and if his wife would also like to live in Turkey for a while. Because of his large network and to some extent his entrepreneurial character Bora was very much engaged in a different business going beyond his realm of study. As Bora knew the German legal system, he has been informing his ties when they needed. From his ties, he received help when he moved in with his wife Berrin as well as when he needed help in unserious sicknesses.

Fig. 8.3
figure 3

Berrin’s network map

Going beyond his sociogram, Bora also highlighted the importance of family ties in his life, not only in terms of exchanging job opportunities with one another, but also how the familyhood was crucial in his life. At the time of the interview, he was 40 years old and a newly-wed, worried not only ‘about’ his own but also his wife’s career. His education took much longer than he anticipated. Due to his lengthy experience which also yielded not so much economic benefits as expected from such a prestigious sector, he influenced his younger brother Yusuf to have a vocational training like his other siblings, with the idea that he could enter the labor market at an earlier age. Moreover, for his wife they were both actively searching for a paid employment. He said:

‘I make the money and Berrin manages the home. The household work is not so of a little business, a person who lives in a house knows that, its cleanliness, the food and shopping. I usually try to do shopping with Berrin so that there is no more work for her and some time left also for her to do some other things for herself […] She is searching for a job and there are things that I am afraid of too, she might be bored at home soon, we discuss things together, like what she wants to do as a job. It is also not so nice for her to stay at home all the time around 8 to 10 hours and wait for me, it is not so easy for her too.’

Bora’s case illustrates that social networks play a role in finding jobs and he activates his ties very often (e.g. Smith, 2005) both for job searching and other supportive activities. Nonetheless, jobs found through social ties might not always be the desired ones as in his case which is a transitionary part-time job, related neither to his education level nor the subject (e.g. Griesshaber & Seibel, 2015; van Tubergen, 2014). Bora’s undesired transitionary job can also be explained by not being connected or at least not reported to being connected to those in relevant or well-positioned individuals related to Bora’s education. As previous studies show, a degree in law in Germany is quite difficult achieve as well as to find a job due to an implicit expectation of an upper middle-class background (e.g. Lang et al., 2022).

8.4.3 Berrin: Nilgün’s Daughter-in-Law and Bora’s Wife

Berrin was born and raised in Germany. Similar to Bora, her father worked at a factory, and different from him, her mother had her own boutique. At the time of the interview, she was a recent graduate from a master’s program in social sciences and looking for a job. After working in a civil society organization for a while, she has decided to pursue an advanced degree, so that she could earn more income. Similar to her husband Bora, Berrin also had three siblings: one older sister studying medicine, and two younger brothers, one of whom dropped out of vocational high school and the other was studying in Turkey.

In her sociogram in Fig. 8.3, Berrin named one friend with whom they were in constant exchange of information on education, healthcare such as which doctor to go to, and to some extent jobs as her friend was also searching for one. Besides, Berrin named 12 family members including Bora and Nilgün. Her network is more similar to Nilgün’s in terms of type of ties rather than her husband as her’s is disproportionately composed of family ties, whereas Bora’s network is slightly larger and composed of diverse ties in terms of relationship, ethnicity and exchanged support. Berrin was mainly involved in care exchange relationships with her family and received money from her parents, sister, and husband.

Although she was actively searching for a job, she mainly got job information from Bora. When asked further, she mentioned that she would rather use a job agency to find a paid employment because she perceived that her personal ties might not be the ones who were the most useful for that purpose. She told me during a family breakfast:

‘I hope you can understand that what I want to do is not really what my family members’ are doing. So, how can they help me? […] They would of course want to help me in any area if they can because they care about me, but they came here as migrants, as outsiders and tried to learn many things on their own. I was born here, so I know the system much better than my parents and this includes also where to search for jobs. In Germany there are agencies for that and they have all the jobs matching to my skills. I do not want to claim any social security benefits because I am not that kind of migrant and they [the authorities] also want to find me a job. I am not worried, I will find something that I want to do.’

When asked about her other ties who were not mentioned in the network map, she said similarly:

‘No one can really help me [in finding a job] because they do not work in my area, they are in catering, cleaning, or have factory jobs that I do not want. My sister will become a medical doctor soon, so she also doesn’t know my area of work […] Also when I think about those who are in Turkey, they have jobs like my cousins, but they have no idea about how things work here [in Germany]’

While Berrin was not relying very much on her network ties in her search for a job, she has been helping to her sister-in-law, Fatma, so that she can keep hers in the catering industry. Berrin not only looks after her nephews after school from time to time, she also assumed some of Fatma’s household duties in her mother-in-law’s household. For Berrin, Bora’s family has a gendered perspective about household task divisions which also resonates in the upbringing of their children compared to her family. Nonetheless, Berrin was helpful to Fatma who during one of the participant observations acknowledged that by stating based on my notes that ‘without her [Berrin], I would have splitted into thousand pieces, be there, do that, children on the one hand, my husband and housework at our own house on the other, and on top of everything, sometimes my mom needs me, she is getting old. She [Berrin] is really helping us all […] Being able to find such a matching family types is not easy.’ Here, she refers to Bora, who, in her opinion, has done a marvelous job to find Berrin, who is caring and respectful to their family values, although from Berrin’s perspective she has been put under many and sometimes even unrealistic expectations.

Berrin’s case is in parallel with previous studies which state that the positions of network members matter the most for finding jobs (Mouw, 2003), especially for women whose networks tend to lack influential ties (Huffman & Torres, 2002; Trimble & Kmec, 2011). Compared to her parents, Berrin experienced an upward social mobility based on her educational credentials. However, as in earlier studies show, Berrin does not belong to those whose personal network turned out to be helpful yet, bringing her a successful labor market position (e.g. Crul et al., 2017; Keskiner & Crul, 2017).

8.5 Conclusion

This chapter has two main contributions to the literature. First, it showed the complex exchanges of support which functions on the basis of generalized reciprocity as a norm, where an individual gets information on jobs and reciprocates that by helping in the household of another family member (Gouldner, 1960; Sahlins, 1972). The main argument of this chapter is that in order to understand labor market positions of migrants, there is a need to investigate diverse supportive resources and not only receiving job information. As it can be seen in the illustrated cases, some migrant mothers need such help to keep their jobs, while others are giving different types of support and may only inspire their personal ties (in this case children) to continue their education and later for finding jobs. In so doing, this chapter goes beyond existing studies that use receiving information from ethnically defined ties as the main operationalization or main explanatory source of jobs migrants have by looking only those who have jobs (e.g. Kanas et al., 2011; Lancee, 2012).

Second contribution of this study is its in-depth analysis of cases that are selected from the same family. The examples in this chapter include a first-generation migrant who was never employed, and two migrant descendants, one of whom had a part-time employment, and the other was in the search phase for a job. In selecting such “unusual” cases compared to existing studies, the realities behind the job search and how personal ties can or cannot be mobilized were explained much more in detail. In so doing, this study also responds to the earlier call for understanding migrant parents’ orientations and practices to unearth the educational and labor market outcomes for their descendants (Keskiner, 2015). From a network perspective, the findings show network differences between generations not only in terms of ties’ types, ethnicity, and location, but also the supportive resources being exchanged. Similar to the study of van Tubergen (2014), the current study shows the larger networks for the second generation in comparison to their parents, nonetheless, not always with ‘good’ resources in terms of finding paid employment. The findings of this study also pinpoints to gender differences in networks both in terms of network size and mobilization of ties.

This study is not without any limitations. First, it is not a representative study and cannot speak for all migrants from Turkey living in Germany. Second, those networks depicted here are only one-time snapshots. Although during the interviews, respondents could talk at length about their changing personal relationships and resource exchanges over time, and yet, more longitudinal studies involving personal network components are necessary to capture the underlying social mechanisms that explain the labor market positions of migrants and their descendants. Nevertheless, despite such limitations, this chapter is a pioneering one investigating extensive network explanations for migrants’ labor market positions.