Rethinking the Role of Volunteering in the Labor Market Inclusion of Migrants

Bontenbal, Ilona; Calo, Francesca; Montgomery, Tom and Baglioni, Simone (2023). Rethinking the Role of Volunteering in the Labor Market Inclusion of Migrants. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 53(1) pp. 107–126.



In this article we critically investigate the role that volunteering can have in the labour market inclusion of migrants. We consider how volunteering can both enhance and hinder inclusion through a comparison of two different contexts: Finland and the UK, where both welfare state and migration regimes are differently shaped. We also question whether volunteering to gain work experience can be defined as ‘volunteering’ or whether it corresponds more with a definition of unpaid labour. Our research is based on 104 interviews with migrants (including refugees and asylum seekers) from various nationalities. We find that volunteering is used in both countries as a way to gain work experience, in the absence of opportunities to enter regular employment. However, volunteering rarely directly leads to employment even though it may facilitate it indirectly, and thus risks trapping migrants in a vicious cycle that does not always lead to labour market inclusion.

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