Voluntary sector job satisfaction beats public and private sectors, says poll

Professor Stephen McKay at the Third Sector Research Centre says sector workers feel their mission fits their ideals

Professor Stephen McKay
Professor Stephen McKay

Voluntary sector workers are more satisfied with their jobs than those working in the public and private sectors, according to new research. But it also shows job satisfaction in the sector has fallen in the last 15 years.

Analysis by the Third Sector Research Centre of data collected over the past 17 years for the British Household Panel Survey, which asks individuals how satisfied or dissatisfied they are with their jobs, found that voluntary sector workers scored a higher level of satisfaction across a range of questions, including the hours they work, the nature of the work and job security.

The TSRC, based at the University of Birmingham, found that on a scale of one to seven, with seven being the highest, 75 per cent of voluntary sector employees in 1993 ranked job satisfaction as a six or seven, compared with 62 per cent of all workers.

In 2008, 66 per cent of not-for-profit employees scored their level of job satisfaction as a six or seven, compared with 60 per cent of all workers.

Professor Stephen McKay, one of the researchers who compiled the paper, said the higher level of job satisfaction in the voluntary sector was down to the nature of the work and employees in the sector feeling as if they were on "some kind of mission that fits in with their own ideals and their organisation’s ideals".

McKay suggested the nine percentage point fall in job satisfaction since the report began could be explained by the growth of the charity sector.

"It could be the way the charity sector has grown and followed a general trend of becoming more business-focused," he said. "People tend to talk more now about how the way they work has changed and of the pressure on modern work, such as more emails and the tendency to be available on the Blackberry."

The research comes as preliminary results from this year’s Charity Pulse, the annual survey of workplace satisfaction, suggest morale has fallen.

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