The UK Voluntary Sector Workforce Almanac 2011, published last week, shows the number of people employed in the sector increased by 40 per cent between 2001 and 2010, but the profile of the workforce changed hardly at all.
At both ends of the decade, about two-thirds were women, a third worked part time, most worked in small organisations and pay was relatively poor.
The report was published just as the workforce is starting to contract. Labour Force Survey figures released in September showed that the number of people employed in the sector fell by 5 per cent in the year to the end of June.
Government spending cuts are likely to result in a further decline in staff numbers, although they are unlikely to return to the level of 2000. But whether the workforce grows or contracts, there is little sign that the demographics within it will alter.
The almanac, a joint project between the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Skills - Third Sector and the Third Sector Research Centre, analyses how the sector workforce changed in the first decade of the century by using data from the government's Labour Force Survey.
It shows that the workforce grew from 547,000 to 765,000 between 2001 and 2010. "Most of the growth came as a result of funding for public service delivery," says Jenny Clark, one of the report's co-authors and research manager at the NCVO.
The survey also shows that two-thirds of employees were women and their average hourly wage was 36 per cent lower than men's. The majority of senior managers were men. Pay rates were 15 per cent lower than the public sector and 12 per cent lower than the private sector.
Report co-author Steve McKay, who leads on workforce and workplace issues at the TSRC, says that although little changed over the decade, there is no indication that voluntary sector staff overall are unhappy with their working lives.
"Those working in the sector still rank higher in terms of job satisfaction than any other," he says. "They say they are satisfied with the nature of the work, and there's no indication that they're dissatisfied with pay."
He says the pay gap with other sectors lessens, but does not disappear, when analysing median pay for full-time roles, and that while the number of female leaders in the sector is higher than in the public and private sectors, it is still low.
McKay says the sector attracts highly educated women. "The flexibility of small workplaces and part-time jobs seems to suit female graduates returning to work," he says.
In contrast to the gender imbalance, the sector scores highly in other areas of diversity. One-fifth of its workforce has a disability, which is higher than in either the public or private sectors.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of the Royal Association for Disabilty Rights, says in the report that the sector has "the potential to be an exemplar in employing and developing truly diverse talent".
She adds: "Already the sector employs more older people, disabled people and women than the private or public sectors."
Job security is one of the main areas of dissatisfaction; 10 per cent of employees are looking for a job, compared with 6 per cent in the public sector and 7 per cent in the private sector.