Volunteering: does it help people in work?

Workers are often told that volunteering can increase employment opportunities and give people an overall economic benefit, but according to new research this financial gain depends on the level of work people do.

New research published in Social Science Research used seven Waves of the British Household Panel Survey to look at people who took part in volunteering work between 1996 and 2008.

According to this research, people who were in professional or managerial level positions, but who also volunteered, earned significantly more than those who didn’t volunteer. But for intermediate workers (who were not in professional or managerial jobs) and for manual workers the reverse was true – people who volunteered earned less than non-volunteers.

Volunteering experience directly benefits the people who do it by giving them new skills, a wider social network and increasing their ‘social capital’ through activities that enhance their social standing. This research suggests that these benefits are not automatically gained by everyone and the reason for this could be in the different types of volunteering that people might do. Those in professional or managerial jobs may be more attracted to volunteering opportunities that provide social contacts, skills development and give greater social capital, which in turn helps their paid employment opportunities.

Volunteering does benefit young people

The researchers found that there are some cases where volunteering does have positive effects, irrespective of employment background. For young people, volunteering whilst still at secondary school or college positively affected the status and earnings of their first paid job, which had benefits for earnings later in life. The research also found that volunteering helped people return to work more quickly after time out of the job market.

You can read the research paper here