Macquarie University
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Volunteer care work: a comparative study of volunteers, cultures of care and gender in Australia and Denmark

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posted on 2022-03-28, 16:08 authored by Charlotte Overgaard
There is a strong public trust in volunteers for the delivery of services across welfare states. Yet, the influence of the wider societal context on volunteering remains poorly understood. The objective of the thesis is to compare volunteer engagement in service delivery to the frail elderly, the very sick and the terminally ill. Australia and Denmark are selected as representatives of contrasting welfare systems, identified in both mainstream and gender-sensitive typologies. To undertake this comparison, the study takes a “Total Social Organisation of Labour” in combination with a “Cultures of Care” approach. Within this framework, volunteer care work is explored in tension and interaction with other actors at three levels: between the non-profit sector, state, market and family (macro-level); between paid and unpaid groups of workers (meso-level); and, between individuals’ own paid and unpaid work (micro-level). The study follows a comparative case study design which entails comparing and contrasting data collected through: interviews with and observation of volunteer care workers (n=41); interviews with staff and management in the hospices and respite organisations they work in (n= 15) and key representatives from other human service organisations (n=12); and survey data and existing literature. The thesis advances our understanding of how welfare states influence volunteer care work and provides important insights into how gender, volunteer care work, paid work and welfare state structures relate. It finds that the volunteer involvement in service delivery is dependent on the preference for professionalised versus lay care, risk considerations, and the ability of staff to preserve paid work. Furthermore, it finds that volunteers explain their motivations with reference to their own paid work. The thesis therefore argues that the involvement of volunteers in care work within welfare states depends on the organisation of, boundaries around, conflicts over and access to paid work.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction—when care-giving is a volunteer activity -- Part 1. Theoretical perspectives, framework and study design. Chapter 2. Theoretical perspectives and framework: volunteering in the welfare state -- Chapter 3. Theoretical perspectives and framework: care work in the welfare state -- Chapter 4. Design and methods—comparative case studies -- Part 2: Australia. Chapter 5. Paid and unpaid work in the Australian welfare state -- Chapter 6. Who is paid, who is not, and why? The Australian organisations -- Chapter 7. When to work for pay, and when not to? The Australian volunteers -- Part 3. Denmark. Chapter 8. Paid and unpaid work in the Danish welfare state -- Chapter 9. Who is paid, who is not, and why? The Danish organisations -- Chapter 10. When to work for pay, and when not to? The Danish volunteers -- Part 4. Comparisons and contributions to macro-theory. Chapter 11. Thematic analysis, comparison and discussion of the Australian and Danish cases -- Chapter 12. Conclusion and Implications.


Theoretical thesis. "A thesis submitted for fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy from Macquarie University and Roskilde University" -- title page. Bibliography: pages 235-257

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Sociology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Sociology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Shaun Wilson

Additional Supervisor 1

Michael Fine

Additional Supervisor 2

Thomas Boje


Copyright Charlotte Overgaard 2015. Copyright disclaimer:




Australia Denmark


1 online resource (xx, 267 pages)

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