There are more sector staff than was thought, says research published today

Third Sector Research Centre study finds that more than 40 per cent of the voluntary sector workforce is based in London and the south east

Staff: about 5 per cent work in the voluntary sector
Staff: about 5 per cent work in the voluntary sector

More people are working in the voluntary sector than was previously thought, according to new research.

The UK Civil Society Almanac 2010 estimated that the sector’s workforce was 668,000 in 2008. But research from the Third Sector Research Centre, released today, estimates that there were more than 1.1 million full-time-equivalent employees in England in the same year. This equated to just over 5 per cent of the workforce.

The TSRC used data from the 2008 National Survey of Third Sector Organisations, whereas most estimates, including the one in the Civil Society Almanac, are taken from the Labour Force Survey, which is a survey of individuals.

According to the TSRC, the NSTSO is likely to capture a broader range of organisations – those that can be "seen to serve social, cultural and environmental objectives" – whereas the Labour Force Survey asks people if they work for a "charity, voluntary organisation or trust".

The NSTSO also reveals the regional distribution of third sector employees, says the TSRC.

According to the new research, the largest proportion of voluntary sector employees is based in London - 26.7 per cent -  with the south east on 17 per cent.

In areas generally considered to be more disadvantaged – the north east, Yorkshire and Humber and the north west – the proportion of people employed in the voluntary sector as a percentage of the overall workforce is lower than the national average of 5.6 per cent.

In London the proportion is 9.5 per cent of the capital’s total workforce.

John Mohan, co-author of the research paper and deputy director of the TSRC, said the sector should consider whether it could provide substantial job opportunities in these northern areas.

"Of course the purpose of voluntary organisations is to respond to social needs and not primarily to create employment," he said. "However, given that many large organisations receive funding from supporters located across the country, the concentration of employment in London and the south east seems to be reproducing inequalities that are evident elsewhere in the economy.

"Given this evidence, it is worth asking whether some third sector functions could be relocated from London, as has happened already with many public sector jobs."

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