Voluntary sector employment sees second consecutive quarterly rise

Employment in the voluntary sector has experienced its second consecutive quarterly rise. Latest analysis of the Labour Force Survey (LFS) shows that during the first three months of 2012 the number of paid employees in the sector increased by approximately 20,000, representing an increase of 2.6% on the previous quarter and equating to a total of 779,000 paid employees.

This follows on from employment levels experiencing a slight recovery during the final quarter of 2011, according to earlier LFS analysis, with 36,000 employees entering the voluntary sector’s paid workforce between October and December 2011.

These findings were produced by Skills –Third Sector with support from the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).

Skills -Third Sector is the registered charity supporting the development of a workforce that is ambitious, skilled and adaptable in achieving the objectives of third sector organisations and the communities they serve.

The findings come as part of an ongoing study being conducted by these three organisations into overall voluntary sector workforce trends.

Looking at the figures in more detail, however, reveals a more uncertain picture.

The number of paid staff is still 5,000 lower than it was 12 months ago and remains significantly less than the all-time high of 806,000 employees in mid-2010.

In addition to this, the latest figures indicate that the majority of the recent increase has been among male employees, with certain parts of the sector more affected than others, in particular social care, which has seen a marked decline in staff numbers over the past year.

There has also been a considerable increase in the number of employees employed on a temporary basis in the voluntary sector.

Keith Mogford, chief executive of Skills – Third Sector said: “These findings show that we are above all a resilient sector, making a significant contribution to both the British economy as well as society.

"We are of course concerned that the headline figure belies a more complicated picture and would urge organisations in the sector to maintain their reputation as good places to work, with a clear commitment to the needs of their diverse staff.”

Sir Stuart Etherington, NCVO chief executive, added: “It is encouraging to see workforce levels once again inching up after last year’s steep decline, but the mixed fortunes across different parts of the sector give real cause for concern. In these challenging times, it is vital that voluntary organisations have a skilled and motivated workforce best equipped to support those most in need.”

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