A race to the bottom? exploring variations in employment conditions in the voluntary sector

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This paper presents findings of a study examining state-voluntary sector inter-organizational relationships, and the capacity of third-sector organizations to exercise autonomy over employment matters in this relationship. The aim is to provide insights into an under-researched area of the inter-organizational literature, especially in relation to its employment implications. In doing so, it reveals how, as with broader studies of inter-organizational relations, state-voluntary sector relations are not homogenous and therefore lead to differing implications for employment. In particular, three Types of voluntary organization emerge, employing, with varying degrees of success, various strategies to protect the terms and conditions of their employees in the face of cost-cutting pressures from funding bodies. As industrialized countries increasingly turn to the third sector for the provision of social services, it argues that even for the strongest of these organizations, there are long-term risks for staff morale and therefore quality of care provided by the sector if organizations fail to manage these external pressures from funders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1033-1053
Number of pages21
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


  • employment
  • voluntary sector
  • public administration
  • human resource management


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