Workforce and Workplace

Volunteering is seen to characterise the third sector and its organisations and activities, the great majority of which are run almost entirely by unpaid workers. Yet the third sector also employs over 700,000 paid workers.

This work stream looks at the people, relationships and conditions that define the third sector’s paid and unpaid workforce, and explores the implications of these.

Key Questions

  • What are the characteristics (demographics, experience and skills) of those employed in the third sector?
  • What are the pay and conditions of those employed in the sector?
  • What attracts people to working in this sector, and what are the implications for their work identities and career trajectories?
  • How can we understand the nature of relationships between paid and unpaid work in the sector?
  • Are there distinctive ways of managing and running third sector organisations?
  • What beneficial social outcomes can we attribute to voluntary activity (e.g. improved employability, social capital formation)?

Current work

Quantitative analysis - through analysis of the Labour Force Survey we are examining the characteristics of those working in the third sector; through the British Household Panel Survey we are looking at job satisfaction; and using the Annual Population Survey we are looking at the different levels of well-being expressed among workers in different sectors. Working in partnership with NCVO and Skills Third Sector, we continue to provide timely statistics on the size and composition of the workforce. Information on the voluntary sector workforce since 2001 can be found on the Voluntary Sector Workforce Almanac 2013 website.

Qualitative research - tapping into wider debates about insecurity, low pay and a polarisation of ‘good jobs’ and ‘bad jobs’ we are currently undertaking qualitative research on changes in pay and conditions for the sector’s workforce in a variety of third sector organisations. In particular this research will explore the effects of austerity and changes to commissioning on the way organisations structure and manage their workforce; how this is experienced by workers and the potential impact of these changes on the delivery of services.

Links to other TSRC research - Research planned in this work stream is closely associated with TSRC’s quantitative data analysis stream. It also has links to the qualitative longitudinal study, ‘Real Times’ and the Service Delivery work stream, in their analysis of third sector delivery of government employment services. We also keep in close contact with other streams to help provide further evidence.

Previous work

Previous work in this stream has included:

  • Individual voluntary participation in the United Kingdom: an overview of survey information (Mohan)
  • Ongoing quantitative analysis of different national surveys to find out about the size, character and experience of employment in the third sector (McKay and Moro, Mohan).
  • Analysis of gender differences in employment levels and volunteering (McKay, Moro and Teasdale).
  • Does volunteering improve employability? Evidence from the British Household Panel Survey (Ellis Paine, McKay and Moro).
  • Organising the third sector: working lives and organisational challenges (Halford and Leonard).
  • The regional distribution of employees in the third sector in England: estimates from the National Survey of Third Sector Organisations (NSTSO) (Mohan and Geyne Rajme).
  • What factors predict volunteering among youths in the UK? (Bennett and Parameshwaren).
  • Third Sector Futures Dialogue - no longer a voluntary sector (Buckingham). 
    Cohort variations in membership of voluntary associations (McCulloch).
  • Formal volunteering, area deprivation and social capital (McCulloch, Mohan and Smith).

Research contacts

  • Stephen McKay (Research Lead)
  • Rebecca Taylor 
  • Daiga Kamerade
  • Angela Ellis Paine
  • Susan Halford 
  • Pauline Leonard 
  • John Mohan
  • Matthew Bennett