Male charity staff are happier than their counterparts in other sectors, says study

A paper by Daiga Kamerade of the Third Sector Research Centre and Stephen McKay of Lincoln University says the sector has a wellbeing premium, but it is not evenly distributed between the genders

Workers: happier in the charity sector
Workers: happier in the charity sector

Men who work in the voluntary sector have higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction than those working in other sectors, a study by the Third Sector Research Centre has found.

The paper, by Daiga Kamerade, research fellow at the TSRC, and Stephen McKay, a professor in social research at the University of Lincoln, concludes that there is a subjective wellbeing premium – defined as "a person’s cognitive and affective evaluation of his or her life" – associated with employment in the voluntary sector but that it is not equally distributed between men and women.

Is There a Subjective Well-Being Premium in Voluntary Sector Employment? says that although voluntary sector employees of both genders experience higher levels of fulfilment than private sector staff, women in the voluntary sector have lower levels of life satisfaction than those who work in the public sector.

Using data from the UK Annual Population Survey 2012/13, produced by the Office for National Statistics, researchers found that working conditions and length of service were also important for wellbeing, suggesting that short-term contracts, zero hours and part-time work, if not chosen by the employee, can have a detrimental effect on their performance.

The authors say that a possible explanation for the gender differences in happiness and life satisfaction is that men working in female-dominated environments, such as the third sector, tend to have faster career progression than women because of "assumptions that they are better leaders, have more skills and are more career orientated".

The authors say the findings have implications for policy and practice in the voluntary sector and policy-makers should "urgently address the issue of subjective wellbeing for women employed in the voluntary sector, especially with regard to their life satisfaction".

They say: "On a practical level, the subjective wellbeing of employees is also likely to affect the functioning of organisations in terms of the levels of sickness absence, retention, employee engagement and user satisfaction.

"Managers in voluntary sector organisations can therefore benefit from knowledge about how the subjective wellbeing levels of their employees compare to employees in other sectors and which working conditions relate to wellbeing."

The report says that it is crucial to analyse the working experiences of men and women separately while looking at working conditions in the voluntary sector.

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