Volunteers and Paid Labour

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Volunteers involve a huge pool of labour in Canada estimated by Statistics Canada as equivalent of over 1 million full-time jobs in 2003. Volunteers form the board of directors of all nonprofit organizations—161,000 in 2003—and for many nonprofits are a substantial portion of their service providers. However, relatively little is known about the relationship of volunteers to the paid workforce and to what extent they are interchanged with paid labour.

A recent study (Handy, Mook, & Quarter, 2008; Quarter, Mook, & Handy, 2004) suggests that the interchange of paid workers and volunteers is widespread among nonprofit organizations, but is limited to about 12 percent of tasks. This SSHRC proposal presents a series of studies with five research objectives relating to the potential interchangeability between volunteers and paid labour. These studies will help to clarify the legitimate domain of volunteering in nonprofit organizations, and help to understand such important issues as the circumstances under which volunteers supplant paid labour and vice versa, both in unionized and non unionized workplaces, and whether volunteering is becoming a tool for exploiting vulnerable groups such as recent immigrants. Through working with the Canadian Labour Congress, CUPE and Imagine Canada, we hope to develop policy for nonprofit organizations and to develop a clearer understanding of what volunteering means

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