Productivity boost from volunteering ‘adds £4.6 billion to UK economy each year’ 

Volunteering is delivering productivity gains worth billions to the UK economy each year, a new study claimsVolunteering is delivering productivity gains worth billions to the UK economy each year, a new study claims. The report by Pro Bono Economics (PBE), commissioned by national volunteering charity Royal Voluntary Service, estimates productivity gains worth at least £4.6 billion each year, or £4,551 per volunteer, arising from volunteering by those in professional and managerial occupations. The PBE report, titled?A pro bono bonus: The impact of volunteering on wages and productivity, stresses that these productivity gains would likely be even higher if the voluntary efforts of those in other job roles, as well as the benefits of volunteering to unemployed people, were taken into account.


Exploring the effects of volunteering on those not in employment, the report gives a strong indication that engaging in voluntary service could also help people back into work. And it underlines the keen interest among jobseekers for supported volunteer roles that could prepare them for finding paid employment. Drawing from Censuswide research, the PBE report shows:

  • Over half (59 percent) of adults who are currently not employed would like to find employment, but barriers such as ill-health (39 percent) loss of confidence (33 percent) and a lack of experience (21 percent) are holding them back.
  • Analysis of existing evidence suggests volunteering can increase skills, with the outcome being increased confidence. This is mirrored in the new research. Among the unemployed people who said they were currently or had volunteered, 38 percent had gained new skills and a third (32 percent) had grown in confidence.
  • The majority (68 percent) of people who are currently unemployed would be interested in supported volunteering opportunities (which include tailored training and mentoring) that help boost their skills, confidence and wellbeing to prepare them to find work. This rises to 74 percent of those aged 18-24.
  • Over two fifths (44 percent) of respondents had not considered volunteering before being asked, indicating more could be done to promote and encourage volunteering among jobseekers.

It was also found that that if the estimated 185,000 currently unemployed people from professional and managerial backgrounds were to volunteer at the same rate as those employed, it would provide a productivity boost to the economy valued at £67.5 million.

Based on the insights, PBE and Royal Voluntary Service have proposed a series of policy recommendations to support the benefits of being a volunteer to individuals, society and the wider economy. These are:

  1. Volunteering has been shown to have positive effects for the volunteers, the beneficiaries, communities and society as a whole; the government should show its full support for volunteering and invest in an activity which contributes to the nation’s prosperity.
  2. Given the positive effects on productivity, there should be a collective effort to expand employee volunteering opportunities across the entire workforce, enabling everyone at work to benefit whatever their role.
  3. The voluntary sector should continue to develop more flexible volunteering opportunities to enable wider participation around work commitments.
  4. The government recently announced the Back to Work Plan to help reduce economic inactivity; where appropriate, jobseekers should be provided with access to volunteering opportunities that could help them develop or utilise existing skills or show a commitment to an organisation and its cause that might help when applying for paid work.
  5. Organisations that provide volunteering opportunities should think about whether they could present volunteers with some type of formal recognition for their volunteering that can be used as evidence of their achievements. This would be particularly beneficial for unemployed people who are encouraged to take part in volunteering in relation to skills development, confidence-building or simply developing networks that could lead to new opportunities.

Catherine Johnstone CBE, Chief Executive of Royal Voluntary Service, said: “Millions of volunteers give their time to support important causes and their communities. Often completing many hours of unpaid service each year, volunteers are the lifeblood of our society, but also a vital contributor to the economy.

“As we have noticed with our own volunteers, volunteering is a very effective means to improve confidence and skills and show commitment to an organisation, helping both  employed and unemployed people boost their employability and prospects. The report has also shown a clear appetite among those currently out of work to volunteer. That’s why we’re now calling for better access to volunteering opportunities for job seekers, alongside more formal recognition for volunteers’ achievements.”