An analysis and monetary valuation of formal and informal voluntary work by gender and educational attainment

Publication type

ISER Working Paper Series

Series Number



ISER Working Paper Series


Publication date

May 1, 2006


This investigation is set against a background of theories of the social division of labour and concentrates particularly on unpaid voluntary work.

The UK 2000 Time Use Survey is used. Time Use data makes it possible to investigate informal helping of non-resident kin and non-kin as well as work through formal voluntary organisations. Time Use data makes it possible to adjust for other calls on respondents' time with considerable accuracy.

It is known that the highly educated are more likely to join voluntary organisations. It is hypothesised that this is partly due to the migratory careers of the highly educated. Migration separates people from their family and community of origin. However, involvement in voluntary organisations may facilitate engagement in destination communities. Conversely, it is hypothesised that non-migrants (who tend to have lower educational qualifications) are more likely to do unpaid helping work through informal social contacts and networks. However there is potential confusion between educational qualifications and age; with older people holding lower qualifications, and between educational qualifications and employment status; with less qualified women being less likely to be in paid work. Therefore adjustments are made for these factors in OLS models of time spent in unpaid work through either formal or informal social contact.

It was found that women were more likely to engage in voluntary work, with the better qualified engaging through organisations and the less qualified through informal contact. Retired people of both sexes did more voluntary work, either through organisations or informally.

Using data from an ONS study of extended household accounts, a monetary value was placed on unpaid work. Although substantially underestimated due to the particular technique used, the value came to over £20 billion, more of which was contributed by women, older people and less educated people.



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