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Employability or self-respect? Justifying the use of volunteering to address unemployment

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British governments continue to support volunteering initiatives as a means to address unemployment. In this article we describe how the primary justification for this support has been (and remains) that it provides ‘access to work’ for unemployed individuals. We then highlight evidence that volunteering performs poorly in this regard, with weak or inconsistent effects in terms of employability. As such, we argue that policy makers and voluntary organisations require alternative justifications for further cooperation in this area. We suggest and develop an alternative justificatory frame, built around volunteering offering long-term unemployed people ‘access to self-respect’. We argue that this justification has both strong normative appeal and a much more secure evidence base for policy. We conclude that this justificatory frame offers an opportunity for policy makers and voluntary organisations to refocus their cooperation in addressing unemployment.
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Keywords: employability; policy; self-respect; unemployment; volunteering; work

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July, 2019

This article was made available online on July 22, 2019 as a Fast Track article with title: "Employability or self-respect? Justifying the use of volunteering to address unemployment".

More about this publication?
  • Voluntary Sector Review publishes high-quality, peer-reviewed, accessible papers on third sector research, policy and practice. It is an invaluable cutting-edge resource for all those researching or working in the fast-growing voluntary, community and wider third sectors.

    The journal covers the full range of issues relevant to voluntary sector studies, including: definitional and theoretical debates; management and organisational development; financial and human resources; philanthropy; volunteering and employment; regulation and charity law; service delivery; civic engagement; industry and sub-sector dimensions; relations with other sectors; social enterprise; evaluation and impact. Voluntary Sector Review covers voluntary sector studies from a variety of disciplines, including sociology, social policy, politics, psychology, economics, business studies, social anthropology, philosophy and ethics. The journal includes work from the UK and Europe, and beyond, where cross-national comparisons are illuminating. With dedicated expert policy and practice sections, Voluntary Sector Review also provides an essential forum for the exchange of ideas and new thinking.

    Rigorous and stimulating, Voluntary Sector Review is an indispensable tool for everyone who values empirically-grounded, theoretically-informed and policy-relevant reviews of the future direction of the voluntary sector.

    Editors: Nick Acheson (Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland), Bernard Harris (University of Strathclyde, UK), Rob Macmillan, (University of Birmingham, UK)

    The journal is published in association with the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) and a print copy of the journal is a membership benefit.

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