Jobs in nonprofit organizations grow faster than in other sectors Hopkins study describes groups as 'social force'

November 08, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Employment by nonprofit agencies in much of the world is growing faster than in the general economy, partly because of growing doubts that governments can solve problems, says a Johns Hopkins University-led study released today.

In 22 countries studied from 1990 to 1995, employment by nonprofit organizations increased 23 percent, compared to 6 percent for employment growth in the economies as a whole.

Almost 19 million people work in an industry worth $1.1 trillion, "a massive economic as well as social force," the study says. If considered as a separate economy, the "independent" sector in the 22 countries would be the eighth largest economy in the world, bigger than Brazil's, Russia's, Canada's or Spain's.

The study was released in Turin, Italy, at the annual meeting of the European Foundation Centre, a group representing 7,000 nonprofit agencies.

The study says the nonprofit sector is often a "lost continent invisible to most policy-makers, business leaders and the press."

"Putting this sector firmly on the mental map of the world is a matter of some urgency."

"[Nonprofits] are increasingly viewed not as a luxury, but as a necessity for peoples around the world. Such institutions can give expression to citizen concerns, hold governments accountable, promote community, address unmet needs and generally improve the quality of life."

The groups surveyed -- described as voluntary, private and not distributing profits -- include hospitals, universities, social clubs, professional agencies, day care centers, environmental groups, family counseling agencies, sports clubs, job training centers and human rights groups.

Most financing of the nonprofits came from fees charged (47 percent) and governments (42 percent), while philanthropic giving amounted to only 11 percent.

"The nonprofit sector has become a major contributor to employment growth" says Lester M. Salamon, the study's director and a Johns Hopkins professor. The growth is "a revolution a massive upsurge of organized private voluntary activity in literally every corner of the world."

More than 150 researchers contributed to the Johns Hopkins University Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project. Aided by Helmut K. Anheier, associate project director, Salamon calls the investigation "the most ambitious study ever of the international nonprofit sector."

Political leaders are beginning to look for other ways to "combine the virtues of the market with the advantages of broader social protections," said the study. Nonprofit groups have surfaced as "a middle way" between sole reliance on the market and sole reliance on the state.

Nonprofit agencies can be useful because of their small scale, their close ties to citizens, their flexibility, their ability to tap private initiative in support of public purposes and other reasons.

The 22 nations surveyed represent a diverse selection of countries with nonprofits -- the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Austria, Finland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Australia, United States, Israel, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Mexico.

The survey made other points, including:

Spending by nonprofit groups in these countries amounts on the average to 4.7 percent of the gross domestic product, "a mighty economic force," Salamon said.

The United States, with 7.8 percent of total employment in nonprofits, is below the Netherlands (12.4 percent), Ireland, Belgium and Israel, but above the 17 others from Britain (6.2 percent) to Romania (0.3 percent) in its proportion to the entire employment picture.

The largest areas of growth in nonprofit jobs have come in health agencies and social services agencies.

The Johns Hopkins University Center for Civil Society Studies headed by Salamon organized the study. Last year, Salamon directed a survey of 439 nonprofits in Maryland. It found the nonprofits were a major economic force.

Pub Date: 11/08/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.