Employment in the voluntary sector has increased for the first time in the past six quarters with an additional 36,000 employees estimated to have entered the sector between October and December 2011 according to the latest Labour Force Survey.
Despite the increase the sector has still experienced a drop in paid employees of around 4.2 per cent over the past twelve months and now employs around 759,000 individuals, equivalent to 2.6 per cent of the UK work force.
The drop is relative to a 4.9 per cent decrease in public service workers and a 1.8 per cent increase in the private sector over the same period. The figures show the rise in the last quarter was equally distribution between full-time and part-time employees.
'No time for complacency'
Speaking of the latest figures Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO which analyses the research together with Skills Third Sector and the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC), said: "It is enoucouraging to see the workforce figures recovering slightly after the steep drop from the last quarter, and the research also highlights the valuable contribution that the sector makes to the UK economy."
However he warned that this was "no time for complacency" and the sector would have to work with government to help meet challenges brought on by the funding cuts.
Keith Mogford, chief executive of Skills Third Sector echoed Sir Stuart's concerns, warning that the results should be viewed with "cautious optimism". He said, however, that he was "particularly encouraged by the figures that suggest the sector is strengthening its commitment to training and workforce development, despite the financial pressures it faces".
40 per cent in training or education
An increase of 13 per cent on the previous quarter and 8.2 per cent in the past twelve months saw 306,000 voluntary sector employees receive job-related training or education in Q4 2011. This represents 40.6 per cent of the workforce. In addition 123,000 voluntary sector employees were estimated to be studying towards a qualification (16 per cent of the workforce), an increase of 24,000 (equivalent to 24.9 per cent) on the previous quarter.
Pay in the sector has remained steady over the last twelve months with a median gross hourly pay of £10.29 between Q4 2010 and Q4 2011. This compares to an increase of 24p in the private sector to £9.38 per hour and an increase of 61p to £12.83 per hour in the public sector.
The Labour Force Survey is conducted by the Office for National Statistics and has been running since 1973. The results are based on a sample of 41,000 responding households in the UK.