Does volunteering improve employability? Insights from the British Household Panel Survey and beyond

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Policy interest in the role of volunteering as a route to employment is enduring, with an assumption that links between volunteering, employability and employment are positive and straightforward. This has largely been supported by existing evidence, although there have been few longitudinal studies testing the theory. Analysing data from the British Household Panel Survey, we used multivariate techniques to explore the effects of volunteering on moves from being out of work into work; and on retention and wage progression for people in employment. We suggest that the relationship is complex: volunteering may have a positive effect on the labour market position of some individuals in some circumstances; for others it may have a negative, or no, effect. We offer some suggestions for the variations we found: the limitations of the dataset and our analysis; a limited concept of employability; and too narrow a view of volunteering and its impact.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-376
JournalVoluntary Sector Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2013


  • volunteering, employability, employment, retention