UK voluntary sector workforce grew by a fifth in the past decade, figures show

The figures come from the UK Civil Society Almanac 2021, which also shows that the sector's income reached record levels before the pandemic

The number of people working in the UK voluntary sector has grown by 20 per cent over the past decade, new figures show. 

The UK Civil Society Almanac 2021, published today by the National Council for Voluntary Organisation, shows that the number of employees working for UK voluntary organisations grew from 792,000 in September 2010 to almost 952,000 in September last year. 

The umbrella body said this outstripped growth in both the private sector, which grew by 16 per over the same period, and the public sector, which reported three per cent growth. 

The NCVO said that in the year to September last year, the number of people working in the UK voluntary sector grew by 32,000, an increase of three per cent. This is despite the coronavirus pandemic severely affecting many charities in the second half of the year. 

But the proportion of the UK workforce employed in the voluntary sector has remained constant at three per cent over the 10-year period. 

The NCVO said that 85 per cent of the UK voluntary sector jobs were in England, eight per cent in Scotland, four per cent in Wales, and three per cent in Northern Ireland, broadly in line with population distribution.

The almanac also includes a wealth of financial data based on the 2018/19 financial year. 

It shows that the sector’s annual income reached a new record of £56bn, up by £800m on the previous year. 

The figure includes a £1bn year-on-year increase in income from the public to £27.1bn, while income from government fell by £300m to £15.8m. 

The NCVO said income from the government as a proportion of the sector’s total income had fallen to its lowest level on record. 

The almanac shows that, despite a fall in formal volunteering numbers during the pandemic as activities were curtailed, there was a “drastic increase” in the number of people informally helping others over the past year. 

It says that 29.4 million people, or 54 per cent of UK adults, volunteered informally at least once in 2020/21 and 33 per cent did so at least once a month. 

Anya Martin, research and insight manager at the NCVO, said the increase in workforce numbers was unexpected given the economic challenges caused by the pandemic. 

“It remains to be seen whether this will continue after the withdrawal of the furlough scheme, but it is clear the sector’s varied funding streams and the support packages for employers have helped to keep employment in the sector buoyant,” she said. 

“Given the rise in employment in the sector, there will also likely be an impact on charities in the coming years from the recently announced increase in National Insurance contributions.”

The NCVO uses data from the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey for workforce figures, while the financial information is drawn from a sample of about 10,000 charity accounts weighted to the remainder of the sector. 

Volunteering numbers come from sources including the government’s Community Life Survey 2020/21

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