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Charity and voluntary sector employment drops by 70,000 in 12 months

Employment in the voluntary sector has fallen by nearly 9% over the past year according to Skills – Third Sector’s analysis of the Labour Force Survey.

Data recently released for the third quarter of 2011 shows the UK voluntary sector employs 723,000 people.

This equates to a fall of 70,000 (8.7% of the workforce) over the past 12 months. In comparison, public sector employment fell by 4.3% whilst private sector employment rose by 1.5% over the same period.

The data also indicates parts of the sector have been disproportionately affected by the fall in employment. The majority of the annual fall has occurred among female employees, with 56,000 fewer female employees in the sector than 12 months previously, a decline of 10%.

Certain regions have also witnessed greater losses, in particular the North East, London, the South East, and Scotland. The latest figures also show an annual fall in pay in the voluntary sector. Median gross hourly pay fell by nearly 3% in the voluntary sector and currently stands at £10.00 per hour. This fall occurred despite increases experienced in both the public and the private sector.

The latest findings were produced by the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in partnership with Skills -Third Sector, the registered charity working to make it easier for people who work and volunteer in charities and social enterprises to have the right skills to make a difference to people and their communities. The findings come as part of an ongoing study being conducted by these three bodies into overall voluntary sector workforce trends.

Keith Mogford, chief executive of Skills - Third Sector said: "These figures reveal the scale of the reduction in the voluntary sector paid workforce and confirm what most of those working in the sector will have been anticipating. The reduction in average pay in the sector, when set against modest increases in both the private and public sectors, is a serious cause for concern. The sector's ability to retain a well-motivated and talented workforce will be critical to its ability to meet the future challenge of delivering higher quality services to more people with less resource. Despite these challenges Skills - Third Sector continues to work with organisations in the sector to support them in the development of their workforce."

Stuart Etherington, NCVO chief executive, added: "The steep drop in the sector workforce is deeply troubling, and provides robust evidence that spending cuts are hitting the voluntary sector disproportionately. With diminishing resources and fewer staff, voluntary organisations are facing a perfect storm and will struggle to meet the increased demand for their services that began with the recession of 2008. The sector is playing its part by looking for efficiencies or more innovative ways to deliver services, but government must play its part too. In particular, it is essential that government at all levels make cuts intelligently and with adequate notice, in accordance with the Best Value Guidance for working with the voluntary sector."