A new report from the University of Essex claims young people who do voluntary work on environmental projects see their work as “slave labour”.
“Environmental Skills and Knowledge for Sustainable Rural Communities: Problems and Prospects for the Inclusion of Young People”, says that many environmental charities relied on young volunteers who are sent by schools and youth services, rather than by choosing to volunteer for themselves.
Many of the environmental projects studied were dominated by physical work such as digging holes, building footpaths and clearing scrub. One young person involved in a group discussion with the researchers described the work as “slave labour”. The study covered 116 environmental groups and 68 volunteers aged between 14 and 25.
The report also says that young volunteers on such projects are dissatisfied with the lack of choice they are given and are not informed or involved in about the broader purpose of their conservation work.
Conservation charities have hit back at the report saying that they offer a rewarding experience and that numbers of enquiries for volunteering are increasing.
People, especially young people and unemployed, face increasing pressures to volunteer, not just from schools and youth services, but from central government and the unemployment industry.
Is volunteering really voluntary for all the volunteers in your organisation?