The voluntary sector is a major employer

821,000 people were employed in the voluntary sector in the UK by March 2014. This figure represents an increase of around 50,000 in the last two years. Since 2004, there has been a year-on-year increase in voluntary sector employees every year, bar a dip in 2010/2011, with a total increase of 199,000 voluntary sector employees (32%) during this time period.

By comparison, the public sector employed 7 million staff, an increase of 32,600 (0.5%) since 2004, whereas the private sector employed 22.2 million staff, an increase of 1.4 million (7%) over the same period. As a proportion of the total UK workforce, the voluntary sector share has increased from 2.2% to 2.7% since 2004.

In the first quarter of 2014, 497,000 of the 821,000 employees in the voluntary sector were full-time equivalent (FTE) staff. This proportion (around 61%) remains similar to previous years.

On average the voluntary sector employs female, older and highly qualified workers

By March 2014, 556,000 females and 264,000 males worked in the voluntary sector. Similar to previous years, women continue to make up about two thirds of the voluntary and public sectors (68% and 65% respectively) but only 40% of the private sector workforce.

Voluntary sector employees are on average slightly older than those in other sectors. Nearly two in five (38%) are aged fifty and over, compared to around a third of the public sector (34%) and just under a third of private sector employees (28%).

Fewer than one in ten (8%) voluntary sector employees are from black and minority ethnic groups, a lower proportion than both the public (10%) and private sectors (11%).

Voluntary sector employees by gender, 2004 to 2014 (headcount, thousands)
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The voluntary sector is highly qualified, with 45% of employees having a university education and only 2% having no qualifications. The profile of employees by qualification was similar in the public sector, but quite different to the private sector where 26% had a university qualification and 7% had none.

Qualification of employees by sector, March 2014 (% of total workforce)
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All sectors have seen a steady increase in  the proportion of university-educated employees. For the voluntary sector this has risen from 34% of the workforce at the start of 2005 to 45% at the end of 2013. The public and private sectors have witnessed comparable growth, but the private sector has consistently maintained a lower proportion of employees with a university degree, with 16% in 2005 rising to 26% in 2013.

Proportion of employees with University education, 2005 to 2014 (% of total workforce)
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Nearly half of all voluntary sector employers work for small organisations

A third (33%) of voluntary sector workers live in either London or the South East. These areas also account for the highest proportions of private and public sector workers, although at a slightly lower rate compared with the voluntary sector (28% and 25% respectively).

Workforce regional breakdown
RegionHeadcount
North East 26,746
North West 73,634
Yorkshire and the Humber 57,906
East Midlands 45,075
West Midlands 48,643
East of England 79,066
London 143,483
South East 128,109
South West 89,238
England691,900
Wales 27,900
Scotland 82,945
Northern Ireland 17,798
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Around half of voluntary sector employees (48%) work at small organisations of fewer than 25 employees. By contrast only 5% work for large organisations (at least 500 employees). However, the proportion of employees working in larger organisations has steadily increased over time, with 28% of people working in a organisation of 50 or more at the end of 2004, compared with 39% at the end of 2013.

Employees in the private and public sectors are far more likely to work for large organisations (13% and 34% respectively).

Employees by organisation size and sector, March 2014 (% of total workforce)
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Social work remains the key activity of voluntary sector employees

A third of voluntary sector workers are employed in social work. As in 2012, these 298,900 people represent 31% of the overall UK workforce employed in social work. Residential care is the second most common form of voluntary sector work, with one in five people (20%) employed in this area, the equivalent of 124,500 employees.

The five largest voluntary sector employment industries, March 2014 (headcount, thousands)
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When compared with the private and public sectors, a lower proportion of voluntary sector employees work in education (16%, versus 29% and 51% respectively). However, a higher proportion worked in activities of membership organisations (12%) than in the private and public sectors (5% and 2% respectively).

The five largest employment industries in the voluntary sector compared to other sectors, March 2014 (% of total workforce)
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Jobs in the voluntary sector are generally less secure

By the end of March 2014, around nine in ten (89%) employees were on permanent contracts, similar to the previous year. This remains lower than both the private (95%) and public sectors (92%). However, 67% of temporary workers were on a fixed contract which was a higher number than in the public sector (60%) and more than double that in the private sector (30%). Temporary voluntary sector workers were less likely to be temping through an agency (4%) then in the public and private sectors (12% and 25% respectively).

Job security for temporary employees by sector, March 2014 (% of total workforce)
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One in ten employees, equating to 82,4000 people, was looking for a new (8%) or additional (2%) job. Altogether this was a slightly higher proportion than the number of employees looking for a new or additional job in the private and public sectors (around 7% each).

Large numbers of voluntary sector workers are in part-time employment

At the end of March 2014, almost two in five voluntary sector workers, equating to 323,490 people, were part-time. This proportion was higher than in both the private and public sectors (25% and 30% respectively).

Of all part-time voluntary sector workers, 73% did not work full-time because they preferred not to, which is higher than in the private sector (62%) but lower than in the public sector (80%). Around 15% of part-time voluntary sector workers could not find a full-time role, which is slightly more than the public sector (13%) but lower than the private sector (19%).

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UK Civil Society Almanac 2015 / The Voluntary Sector /People

Published: 29-05-2015

https://data.ncvo.org.uk/a/almanac15/workforce/