Estimated size of the Voluntary and Community Sector workforce:
The data presented in this section illustrates the estimated size and characteristics of the workforce in the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland. Data used within this section is mainly taken from the Workforce Survey 2018 and data held on the NICVA database.
The data in this section of State of the Sector is based on organisations that employ paid staff. The Volunteers section examines volunteering in the sector.
Every two to three years NICVA undertakes a workforce survey which provides a comprehensive overview of the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) workforce in Northern Ireland. The previous surveys explored issues including workforce profile, salaries, pensions, recruitment, retention, restructuring, training, benefits and future trends.
The Workforce Survey 2018 was disseminated to n=1,028 NICVA member organisations across the VCSE sector and generated a response rate of 23.9% (n= 246). Additional information regarding the methodology can be accessed here.
As the sample is different from the previous workforce surveys, direct comparisons to previous year's results cannot be made with this current survey. Previous survey reports can be accessed here.
The voluntary and community sector remains an important employer in Northern Ireland, with an estimated 53,620 employees. This figure represents 7% of the total Northern Ireland workforce.
- Health and Wellbeing (56.1%), Community Development (50%) and Education and Training (49.6%) were the top three subsectors that were applicable to organisations
- The Workforce and Volunteer Survey 2018 indicated that 70.7% of organisations were registered with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland
- Over a third (35.7%) of organisations also stated that they were registered with HMRC
Based on findings from NICVA's Workforce Survey 2018, 66.7% of organisations (n=156) employed paid staff. 58% of staff were employed on a full-time basis. The average number of employees in these organisations was 14.4.
- 58% of staff employed in organisations that responded to NICVA's Workforce Survey 2018 were employed in full-time roles.
- The proportion of full-time roles is marginally lower in proportion to the paid staff full-time roles in the UK voluntary and community sector at UK level (64%) and the overall Northern Ireland workforce in all sectors (65.4%)
- A number (13.4%) of organisations employed/involved EU nationals (ROI) and 14.3% of organisations employed/involved EU nationals (Non-ROI)
Women comprised of three quarters of paid employees.
- Women represented 71.4% of paid staff in organisations that responded to the 2018 Workforce Survey.
- The difference in gender composition is more pronounced than at UK level, where 63% of the voluntary and community sector workforce is comprised of females (NCVO, 2018).
- For the overall Northern Ireland workforce the gender composition is more evenly balanced with 52% of those aged 16+ in employment male and 48% female (NISRA, 2018).
Females were more likely than males to hold full-time jobs amongst organisations that responded to the survey.
- Analysis of job status within the gender groups revealed that females were more likely to hold full-time positions than males in the organisations responding to the survey, with 64.8% of females holding full-time roles compared to 32.8% of males
- 80.8% of females held part-time jobs compared to 17.1% of all males in organisations responding to the survey
- A similar distribution of females across full-time and part-time roles (65%/82%) is reflected in the overall Northern Ireland female workforce in all sectors (52.8%/47.2%) (NISRA, 2018) - but for males there is a larger difference wiht more part-time work amongst organisations that responded to the survey
70% of contracts for paid staff were permanent contracts
- 18% of contracts were fixed term, and 5.9% on a temporary basis
- The majority of organisations (94.4%) did not employ agency staff
- A small number of organisations offered paid internships (8%) and paid apprenticeships (2.9%)
- More than one third (37.3%) of organisations offered unpaid student placements
- The majority of paid staff were aged 16-24 years old (55%)
Over a fifth of the organisations (21.6%), who responded to this survey, had an annual income of less than £10,000
- The majority (21.6%) of organisations had an annual income of less than £10,000
- A number of organisations had an annual income of £250,001 – £500,000 (15.3%), £100,001-£250,000 (13.3%) and £50,001-£100,000 (13.3%)
The most common recruitment difficulties experienced by organisations was a 'lack of suitably qualified applicants' and 'insufficient number of applicants' applying for jobs in the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland.
- One-quarter (26.2%) of organisations did not recruit over the past 12 months the most common recruitment difficulties cited were 'lack of suitably qualified applicants' (58.6%) and 'insufficient number of applicants' (44.8%)
- Of those organisations that did recruit, issues impacting the recruitment of staff included a 'lack of suitably skilled applicants' (41.3%), 'lack of job security' (37.9%) and 'short or temporary contracts' (34.4%) offered by employers
|Recruitment difficulty||Percent of organisations|
|Lack of suitably qualified applicants||58.6%|
|Insufficient number of applicants||44.8%|
|Lack of suitably skilled applicants||41.3%|
|Lack of job security||37.9%|
|Short term or temporary contracts||34.4%|
|Competition from other organisations||27.6%|
|Perception of the sector||20.7%|
|Benefits package not adequate||17.2%|
|Barriers created by the recruitment process and documentation||10.3%|
|Perception of the job||10.3%|
|Perception of the organisation||10.3%|
|Lack of interpersonal skills||10.3%|
|Location of organisation||6.9%|
|Applicants unable to accept position due to cost of living in the area||3.4%|
|Fears about the impact of Brexit||3.4%|
|The costs of recruitment||3.4%|
Close to one-fifth (18.2%) of respondents experienced difficulties around staff retention. 'Funding', 'salary levels' and 'lack of career progression' and 'competition from other organisations' were cited as the main contributing factors to staff retention difficulties.
- Of those organisations (18.2%) who did have difficulty retaining staff, the most common issue cited was 'funding', with over half of organisations (51.8%) selecting this option in 2018
- Organisations stated that 'salary levels' (44.4%), 'lack of career progression' (25.9%) and 'competition from other organisations' (25.9%) made it difficult to retain staff
Almost a quarter (24.6%) of respondents reported difficulty in recruiting and retaining volunteers. The main reasons cited included; 'insufficient number of volunteers coming forward', 'work commitments' and a 'lack of suitable volunteers'.
- The most common issue was an 'insufficient number of volunteers coming forward', with over three quarters (78.5%) of organisations selecting this option in 2018
- Organisations stated that 'insufficient number of volunteers coming forward' (78.5%), 'work commitments' (28.5%) and a 'lack of suitable volunteers' (26.8%) made it difficult to recruit and retain volunteers
|Retention and recruitment difficulty||Percent of organisations|
|Insufficient number of volunteers coming forward||78.5|
|Lack of suitable volunteers||26.8|
|Lack of money to refund out of pocket expenses||19.6|
|Applicants unable to work on a voluntary basis||17.8|
|Childcare / home commitments||16.1|
|Perception of the job||16.1|
|Perception of the organisation||10.7|
|Fear of potential loss of benefits||10.7|
|Lack of flexibility with volunteering||8.9|
|Location of organisation||7.1|
|Lack of accredited training or accreditation||7.1|
|Perception of the sector||5.4|
|Volunteers underestimating level of work required||1.8|
|Concern about responsibilities of trustees under charity law||1.8|
|Volunteers do not want responsibilities||1.8|
|Hard to generate interest in younger people to volunteer||1.8|
|Difficulty arranging suitable time for meetings and training||1.8|
The benefit most likely to be offered above the statutory requirement was annual leave (48.6%).
- Annual leave was the benefit respondents were most likely to offer above the statutory requirement (48.6%)
- Over one-third (36.7%) of respondents offered sick leave and pay above statutory levels, while one-third of organisations offered maternity/adoption leave and pay above the statutory requirement (30.7%)
- The benefits that respondents were least likely to offer above the statutory requirement included overtime payments (7.2%) and shared parental leave (15.3%)
- Over three quarters (75.7%) of organisations did not have a working from home policy
75.3% of respondents to the Workforce Survey 2018 had implemented a pension scheme.
- In the Workforce Survey 2018, questions were included on organisations' existing pension schemes. Over three quarters (75.3%) of organisations who responded had implemented a pension scheme
- The most popular type of pension scheme implemented was 'Defined Contributory' (including money purchasing schemes) (74%)
- The average maximum employer's pension contribution was 5%, and employee's contribution (excluding AVCs) was 3%
- Over half (52.6%) of organisations reported linking to a specific salary scale
- Over three quarters (80.3%) of organisations reported that they paid staff the real living wage as recommended by the Living Wage Foundation
- The majority (89.4%) of organisations did not recognise a trade union for collective purposes
70.5% of organisations that responded to the Workforce Survey 2018 were funded under government contracts.
- Many organisations indicated that they were funded under government contracts (70.5%)
- Almost three quarters (74.3%) of full-time staff funded through government contracts were male and 56.8% were female
'Levels and sources of income' was identified as the issue most likely to negatively affect the voluntary and community sector workforce.
- Most respondents (60.1%) indicated that they expected levels and sources of income to have an impact on the sector's workforce
- Trends in volunteering (34.5%) was the second most likely issue to impact the voluntary and community sector
- Over one third (33.3%) of respondents felt that withdrawal from the European Union (Brexit) would also impact the sector's workforce