Government contracts should enable voluntary sector organisations to give staff better employment conditions because many of the jobs they help create are "precarious and low-paid", according to a new report from the Third Sector Research Centre.
The report was compiled for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and studied 655 third sector organisations in eight countries.
It looks at issues such as job creation, quality of employment and the role of the sector in providing jobs to vulnerable people.
The report says politicians are keen to use the sector to provide jobs for vulnerable people but that they must also recognise the "pivotal" role governments play in these workers’ employment conditions through contracts.
A small number of organisations created the majority of the new jobs in charities, the report says, but many of them were "precarious and low-paid" because competition with the private sector forced them to reduce costs.
Consequently, third sector organisations find it harder to deliver job security, adequate wages, or career progression to staff, it says.
Organisations interviewed for the report said they wanted longer-term contracts from governments to help meet the cost of the social value they created through employing vulnerable people.
The report echoes the findings of an earlier study by the TSRC of the effects of commissioning on social enterprises in the UK, which found that many struggle to provide secure employment conditions for staff because of a lack of funding.
"The commissioning environment is an area in which policymakers clearly have opportunities to shape the way services are provided and the nature of the jobs created, by building social clauses into commissioning models for example," said Heather Buckingham, research fellow at the TSRC and one of the report’s authors. "Governments could help level the playing field through legislation requiring that all employees delivering government contracts are paid a living wage."