Who works in the voluntary sector?
- The majority of the voluntary sector workforce are women, who make up over two-thirds (67%) of the total workforce. This proportion is similar to the public sector (65%) but much higher than the private sector (41%).
- After the drop in the proportion of men working in the voluntary sector between 2017 and 2019, there has been a modest increase between 2019 and 2020 (September to September).
After a dip in 2018, the number of men working in the voluntary sector has remained stable
- The voluntary sector workforce is older than the workforce in other sectors with 38% of employees aged 50 years and over, compared to 35% in the public sector and 31% in the private sector.
- The number of people aged 16-34 working in the voluntary sector has grown by 3% since September 2019, but they remain the smallest age group (27%).
- People in the 50+ age group have seen the largest increases since September 2019, increasing by 6% in the voluntary sector and by 3% in the public sector. The number of people aged 50+ in private sector contracted by 0.7%, but this was matched by larger falls in other age groups too.
The voluntary sector workforce has a similar age profile to the public sector but is older than the private sector
- The voluntary sector has a predominantly white workforce, with people from BAME backgrounds making up 9% of the workforce.
- This proportion is lower than in the public and private sectors (both 12%) and has not changed in the last eight years (our data on ethnicity does not go back further than this). It is also lower than in the UK population as a whole, based on the latest census (13%).
The proportion of BAME workers in the voluntary sector remains low and has not changed in the last eight years
By disability status
- The UK voluntary sector has the largest proportion of its workforce who are disabled (23%), compared with the public (18%) and private sectors (15%).
- There was a large increase in the number of disabled people working in the sector from 2019 to 2020 (+22%), higher than the public sector (+13%) and private sector (+0.1%).
Between September 2019 and September 2020, the UK voluntary sector has seen the biggest increase in the number of disabled people working in the sector
- The drop in the proportion of EU nationals working in the voluntary sector after the 2016 EU referendum stalled towards the end of 2017 and has been relatively stable since then.
- In September 2020, the proportion of EU nationals working in voluntary organisations was 4%, unchanged from the previous year, after a peak of 5% in early 2016. Similarly, the proportion of employees in the private sector seems to have stabilised after a fall between 2017 and 2018, while the proportion of EU nationals working in the public sector has been growing very slowly.
- The percentage change in the proportion of EU nationals working in the UK voluntary sector since 2010 is 54%. It is 107% and 64% for the public and private sectors respectively.
The proportion of EU nationals working in the voluntary sector has remained relatively stable after a drop following the 2016 referendum
More data and research
- Download more Almanac data
- Read NCVO’s analysis on employment skills gap in the voluntary sector
- Have a look at a report on the pay conditions in the sector carried out by NCVO and other partners, including the Cardiff Business School
- Read our analysis on the number of EU nationals working in the voluntary sector
Links and resources
- Human resources and employment law overview
- Employing people essentials
- Recruitment and starting employment
- Equality, diversity and inclusion
- Get free unlimited advice through our HR and employment law helpline provided by Croner.
- Get discounts on HR support packages through HR Services Partnership and Roots HR.
We have moved to using the September editions of the Labour Force Survey in order to obtain the latest workforce figures for the period covering the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic.
Respondents are regarded either as disabled according to the Disability Discrimination Act, or as having a work-limiting disability. Please see this Office for National Statistics brief on measuring disability in the workforce for more information.
This section refers figures for respondents who answered the question. Between 2016 and 2020 there was an average of 0.5% of respondents who did not answer the question or answer ‘Does not apply’.
ACEVO and Voice4Change England (2020) Home Truths: Undoing racism and delivering real diversity in the charity sector
NCVO (2020) Time Well Spent: Diversity and Volunteering.