Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Why Do Third Sector Employees Intend to Remain or Leave Their Workplace?

Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Why Do Third Sector Employees Intend to Remain or Leave Their Workplace?

Article excerpt


In the third sector literature, it has often been suggested that employees working in nonprofit organizations enjoy greater job satisfaction. According to the argument, this is due to intrinsic work benefits related to nonprofit work. It has also been assumed that employees enter and stay in third sector organizations (TSOs) because they want to serve the community and promote organizational goals, even if it requires self-sacrifice (Benz 2005; Borzaga and Tortia 2006; Hansmann 1980; Rose-Ackerman 1996). It has been assumed that this kind of 'public service motivation' or intrinsic motivation to serve the community makes work more meaningful and thus reduces employees' turnover intentions (Perry and Wise 1990).

According to previous studies conducted in the USA and Korea, however, TSOs face challenges in hiring and retaining employees. This is mainly due to low pay satisfaction and lack of advancement opportunities (e.g., Ban et al. 2003; Brown and Yoshioka 2003; Kang et al. 2015; Kim and Lee 2007). In Italy, Becchetti et al. (2014) however, found that a large share of those employees who voluntarily moved from the for-profit sector to the nonprofit sector had higher job satisfaction after the change. They also perceived significantly higher time flexibility, improved relationships with stakeholders, and closer conformity to educational skills in their new jobs.

In the Nordic countries, studies on third sector paid employees are rare. This is mainly due to the fact that TSOs in Nordic countries have traditionally employed fewer paid workers than their counterparts in other developed countries (Salamon et al. 1999), and thus the interest on the third sector working life has been limited. Simultaneously, however, there has been a major institutional change in the third sector of the Nordic countries. The importance of civil society in the field of welfare services has increased as public deficits compelled public sector authorities to seek more efficient means to provide welfare services. As a consequence of this, the Nordic TSOs have increasingly shifted from social movement organizations to welfare service providers, and the number of paid employees has increased substantially (Ruuskanen et al. 2016; Sivesind and Selle 2010; Wijkström 2011).

It has been suggested that the role of TSOs as coproducers of public services may lead to bargaining of job quality in terms of deskilling and insecurity (Cunningham and James 2009; Shragge et al. 2001). On the other hand, public service motivation may attract and keep employees in the TSOs. Thus, in the Nordic third sector, there may be two contradictory forces related to employees' turnover intentions. In this article we first ask whether third sector employees in Finland are more committed to their jobs than others in terms of turnover intentions. Second, we ask why third sector employees intend to stay in or leave their workplace.

The article is organized as follows. The next section provides a short overview of institutional changes affecting third sector employment in the Nordic context. Thereafter, we discuss the interrelated concepts of turnover intentions, public service motivation, and job quality. In the following section, empirical data and measures for the study are described. The results section, firstly, compares turnover intentions between third, public, and private sector employees in Finland. Secondly, it responds to the question about the main factors that influence turnover intentions among third sector employees.

change of third Sector Employment in Nordic countries

The role that TSOs play in the provision of welfare services has historically varied in different welfare regimes (e.g., Kendall 2009; Salamon et al. 2003). In the 'Nordic model' the third sector was not widely engaged in providing services. Instead TSOs have engaged mostly in expressive functions. In other words, they have acted as 'vehicles for the expression of political, social and recreational interests' (Salamon and Anheier 1998, p. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.