Research confirms work satisfaction working in the sector

Written by Andrew Holt

New research from the Third Sector Research Centre confirms what many have often asserted – those working in the voluntary sector are more satisfied with their jobs.

The research uses robust analysis from 17 years’ worth of high quality data to compare job satisfaction in the third sector with job satisfaction in the public and private sectors.

The research controls for other variables that might explain these differences – such as differences in personal characteristics like age, and different working hours and job characteristics – and finds that there is still higher job satisfaction in the voluntary sector.

The research highlights an ‘unexplained factor’ in the differences in job satisfaction – empirically identifying what is often seen as the ‘warm glow’ of working in the voluntary sector.

The research uses data from 17 waves of the British Household Panel survey, which allows it to compare differences in job satisfaction over time. While voluntary sector workers still have higher job satisfaction, the advantage enjoyed over other sectors seems to have decreased over time.

In 1993, 62% of all workers gave a level of satisfaction with their jobs that was 6 or 7 (with 7 meaning completely satisfied and 1 meaning not satisfied at all). Among those working for non-profits, the corresponding proportion was 75%. In 2008, 60% of all workers gave a level of satisfaction of either 6 or 7. For non-profit employees, the corresponding proportion was 66%.

Chiara Paola Donegani, associate fellow at TSRC, said: "There have often been reports of higher job satisfaction in the voluntary sector. While it appears to be falling, this research confirms that it still exists.

"The novel thing about this research is that it seems to empirically confirm the existence of a ‘warm glow’ that goes beyond the different job and personal characteristics of employees.

"This is not to say that these other factors are not important – working hours, pay, autonomy and involvement all contribute to greater job satisfaction, and will be important in maintaining a voluntary sector premium!"

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