Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2019-04-26

Filling the gaps: Unpaid (and precarious) work in the nonprofit social services ,

Document type Article
Author Cunningham, Ian
Author Shields, John
Author Baines, Donna
Journal Critical Social Policy
Volume 37
Date 2017 11 1
ISSN 0261-0183
Pages 625-645
URL https://doi.org/10.1177/0261018317693128

Abstract

Unpaid work has long been used in nonprofit/voluntary social services to extend paid work. Drawing on three case studies of nonprofit social services in Canada, this article argues that due to austerity policies, the conditions for ‘pure’ gift relationships in unpaid social service work are increasingly rare. Instead, employers have found various ways to ‘fill the gaps’ in funding through the extraction of unpaid work in various forms. Precarious workers are highly vulnerable to expectations that they will ‘volunteer’ at their places of employment, while expectations that students will undertake unpaid internships is increasing the norm for degree completion and procurement of employment, and full-time workers often use unpaid work as a form of resistance. This article contributes to theory by advancing a spectrum of unpaid nonprofit social service work as compelled and coerced to varying degrees in the context of austerity policies and funding cutbacks., Unpaid work has long been used in nonprofit/voluntary social services to extend paid work. Drawing on three case studies of nonprofit social services in Canada, this article argues that due to austerity policies, the conditions for ‘pure’ gift relationships in unpaid social service work are increasingly rare. Instead, employers have found various ways to ‘fill the gaps’ in funding through the extraction of unpaid work in various forms. Precarious workers are highly vulnerable to expectations that they will ‘volunteer’ at their places of employment, while expectations that students will undertake unpaid internships is increasing the norm for degree completion and procurement of employment, and full-time workers often use unpaid work as a form of resistance. This article contributes to theory by advancing a spectrum of unpaid nonprofit social service work as compelled and coerced to varying degrees in the context of austerity policies and funding cutbacks.