A total of 47.3 percent of jobs in Italy are gained through these "informal channels", Istat said, with that figure rising to 50.6 percent in the south, where unemployment levels are highest. The majority of the remaining jobs (52.7 percent) were found through traditional means including adverts and employment agencies.
But the vast majority of Italians appealed to help from their personal networks during the job-hunt, with 87.5 percent saying they had done so. These findings were published in Istat's Annual Report on the State of the Nation, which this year focussed on the theme of networks including friendships, social media, and families.
The trend does appear to be reversing though, with young Italians -- among whom the unemployment rate is highest -- more likely to find work entirely through their own efforts.
Of the Italians who graduated in 2011 and were employed in 2015, just one in four had found their role through a recommendation from a friend or relative, with a third of them having found success in responding to job ads or sending a speculative CV.
And this could have positive effects: Istat writes that finding work "through help from friends or family on average leads to a job with lower pay, less stability and less correspondence to the individual's qualifications".
The enduring importance of personal networks presents a hurdle to social mobility, according to the report, which noted that family wealth, as well as parents' and relatives' occupations and level of education, were decisive factors in the employment rate, professional status (measured by job title) and salary of workers in Italy.
Male graduates living in northern Italy were the demographic most likely to find a job within 12 months according to the 2017 data, with level of education one of the key factors. Eight of ten university graduates were employed, compared to two thirds of those who had graduated high school, while just four in ten Italians whose highest level of education was the middle school qualification were in work.
As well as turning to friends and family during the job-hunt, Italians are also able to rely on their personal networks in financial emergencies, with Istat stating that 44.7 percent said they had at least one person they could count on for help in case of urgent need of money (€800).
The report also had good news for the economy more generally, with Italy's GDP reaching its highest level since 2010 last year after annual growth of 1.5 percent. Employment rate also rose for the fourth consecutive year, but remained far from the EU average, with the younger generation seeing the smallest increase.
There were also significant differences based on gender and location, with fewer than half of Italian women employed (48.9 percent) and women representing three quarters of all part-time workers, and higher unemployment in the southern regions.