The literature on international volunteer motivation has highlighted mainly Western cases, while almost ignoring Asian volunteers. Through an analysis of the motivations of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs), this study aims to identify who they are and to contribute to our understanding of individual behavior in relation to international volunteering. This is the first quantitative study of their motivation, and we surveyed them using a series of questionnaires. We obtained 1507 responses from the volunteers, and a cluster analysis of the revealed motives categorized them into six types, labeled as: (I) curious; (II) business-minded; (III) development assistance; (IV) quest for oneself; (V) change-oriented; and (VI) altruist. The results show that each of these groups tends to have a different set of motives, and these can be characterized according to their socio-demographic and behavioral information. The results confirm that JOCVs have the same altruistic and egoistic motivations that have been observed in the Western studies. From a practical perspective, our six clusters of volunteers match the three purposes of the JOCV program, and show that, to a certain extent, the program has been successful in recruiting young Japanese people. Moreover, the classifications will be helpful when the JOCV Secretariat managers wish to target specific types of volunteers for special recruiting and training.
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Here we distinguish international volunteering, which is an activity located “within civil society,” from what has become known as voluntourism, which is “an economic activity driven by profit” and operates “within the market” (McGloin and Georgeou 2016).
While being aware of the significance of Global South—giving up on the divide “developed” and “developing” as the SDGs propose—as terminology, we opt to use “developing countries” in this article, because the term is used in our questionnaire survey as well as JOCVs' activities.
For the history of JOCV program, see Okabe (2016).
Before being dispatched overseas, volunteers are required to take a residential group training course which lasts about 70 days. This intensive training consists of a variety of topics, including local language, principle of international cooperation, conditions in the host country, health management, and safety measures. Depending on their skills and technical requirement, additional training courses may be held (JICA 2015; MOFA 2015).
Here we define volunteering as “activities… undertaken of free will, for the general public good and where monetary reward is not the principal motivating factor,” following UNV’s definition of volunteerism (UNV 2015: xiv). Those expenses that JOCVs are paid for include air ticket, local cost of living, and allowance for expenses when they return to Japan. For further details, see JICA Website (accessed 6 October 2018) https://www.jica.go.jp/volunteer/application/seinen/support_system/treatment/.
JICA Website (accessed 2 March 2019) https://www.jica.go.jp/volunteer/outline/publication/results/.
For the number of VSO and U.S. Peace Corps volunteers, see their websites (accessed 2 March 2017) https://www.vsointernational.org/about-us/our-history, and https://www.peacecorps.gov/news/fast-facts/.
Similar to motivations for volunteering, those for joining nonprofit organizations also have been traditionally examined by scholars of social entrepreneurship like Young (1983), who presented the taxonomy of nonprofit entrepreneurs in the American social service industry.
From a psychological perspective, many scholars have discussed the fact that people who engage in volunteering may have different motivations for doing so. The most influential approach is the functional approach, which argues that volunteering may serve six psychological functions for different individuals: value, understanding, social, career, protective, and enhancement (Clary et al. 1998; Omoto and Snyder 1995).
This conventional distinction between altruism and egoism may blur, if we take into consideration the “warm-glow,” which means that volunteers themselves also feel a kind of satisfaction from helping others (Andreoni 1990). Also, the economic model for volunteer labor supply (Menchik and Weisbrod 1987) demonstrated two types of motivations: consumption (obtaining the benefit at present) and investment (reaping the benefit in the future), irrespective of altruism and egoism. For the purpose of a literature review, however, we draw a line between the altruistic and egoist motivations, as previous studies reviewed here do so.
On multiple motives of international volunteers, see also Georgeou (2012, Ch. 5).
Houle et al. (2005) argues that differences in motives influence work efficiency in (domestic) volunteer services.
As mentioned in the introduction, the total number of JOCVs has reached over 44,000. The Korean government sent over 11,000 long-term volunteers to developing countries between 1990 and 2015 (http://www.koica.go.kr/english/schemes/world_friends_korea/index.html). See Brassard et al. (2010) for an overview of the current trends and challenges of international volunteerism in Asia.
The Japanese fiscal year starts in April. Each fiscal year volunteers are dispatched in four batches.
Respondents were assured that their answers would be held in strict confidentiality, so that they could express their honest opinions without surmising what JICA expected them to answer.
Motivations conveyed by respondents have the potential to reflect what they think the researcher and JICA consider to be the most important motivations (Tiessen 2012, p. 9). To avoid this problem, the respondents were asked to choose three options from a number of different possible motivations, thereby reducing the chance that they would choose those that the authors and JICA expected, and increasing the chance that they would pick up on the motivations that are closest to their real ones.
We used principal component analysis to reduce dimensionality and extract substantial motives, not to interpret the meanings of the components, because the number of motives to be selected is so large that the result of the cluster analysis (discussed later) would not converge. Dimension reduction is often important in shortening the processing time and mitigating the curse of dimensionality (Sembiring et al. 2011).
Note that this principal component analysis was performed on a covariance matrix, so the eigenvalues and eigenvectors differ from those of the associated correlation matrix.
The approximation to the Chi-squared distribution breaks down if expected frequencies are too low. To see how these variables are combined, see Appendix 1.
Residual analysis allows us to know the significance level associated with a single cell value by analyzing the difference between the expected frequency and observed frequency.
js-STAR automatically carries out the residual analysis in case the chi-square test for independence, which turns out to be significant at the 10% level.
The Tukey–Kramer (TK) method was employed due to unequal cell sizes, and it is more powerful for the detection of true difference than Scheffe’s. TK is the most acceptable general method for all pairwise comparisons (Hsu 1996).
Note that the chi-square test is conducted for the frequency, not for the percentage.
Authors are grateful to a referee for suggesting that vocational typology by Holland (1973) merits attention.
Only G has principal component loading higher than the absolute value of 0.4.
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The authors thank Akiko Aikawa, Yuka Ebihara, Kana Fuse, Akiko Minowa, Tsutomu Nemoto, Mayuko Onuki, Eriko Sakamaki, Mine Sato, Shinobu Shimokoshi, Chikako Suzuki, Keiichi Tsunekawa, Mika Ueyama, Yuji Utsumi, Koji Yamada, Toshie Yamashita, and two anonymous reviewers for their great help with the series of questionnaire surveys and their valuable comments. The usual disclaimers apply.
Funding was provided by Japan International Cooperation Agency Research Institute.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Appendix 1: Descriptive Statistics, Pearson’s Chi-square Test, and Residual Analysis
|Variables||Attributes||# in total||Cluster||All (%)||Pearson’s χ2 prob.|
|I (%)||II (%)||III (%)||IV (%)||V (%)||VI (%)|
|JOCV job classificationa||Education/culture||1255||50.3||43.1||39.7||52.0||45.7||47.6||46.7||0.017|
|Planning and administration||5.7||8.9||8.2||6.7||5.5||3.3||6.1|
|Educationb||Less than college/university||1462||13.6||13.6||12.6||22.0||20.2||19.5||16.8||0.012|
|Higher than college/university||18.0||21.4||21.9||15.9||12.9||12.9||16.8|
|Status during JOCV activitiesc||Not working||1506||28.4||25.5||29.7||27.7||23.3||28.7||27.5||0.013|
|Keeping current job||17.6||17.2||11.8||18.1||19.2||14.0||16.2|
|Recently quit the job||35.0||44.8||46.3||39.9||49.2||42.7||42.2|
|Taking off from school||3.4||2.1||4.5||2.1||0.4||0.7||2.3|
|Previous employment statusd||Permanent staff||1505||42.5||52.4||52.7||59.0||64.4||53.8||53.0||0.004|
|Previous work typee,f||Teacher||1168||21.5||14.0||11.1||9.8||16.1||16.0||15.5||0.036|
|Travel experience (check all that apply)||Abroad||1506||94.5||96.6||97.6||93.6||92.1||96.1||95.0||0.069|
|Activity experience (check all that apply)||Community service||1487||60.1||51.4||58.0||51.1||53.4||66.8||58.1||0.002|
|Service for elderly/disabled||1490||55.5||45.1||50.8||45.5||49.4||55.4||51.5||0.082|
|International exchange/support for foreigners||1489||53.7||52.4||63.0||46.5||39.2||57.7||52.7||0.000|
|Donation to volunteer organization||1485||57.1||51.4||69.3||51.9||53.4||59.9||57.9||0.001|
|Preparation before applying JOCV (check all that apply)||Not in particular||1501||14.3||21.7||20.3||24.6||15.4||13.1||17.2||0.004|
|Take part in volunteer activities||1502||20.8||20.3||16.3||11.8||17.1||26.5||19.4||0.001|
|Gather information on developing countries||1501||32.7||29.4||34.2||24.6||32.5||36.0||32.3||0.161|
|Talk with returned JOCVs||1502||48.4||39.2||46.3||40.6||40.4||50.3||45.3||0.055|
|Visit developing countries||1502||14.0||10.5||10.2||5.9||7.5||12.4||10.7||0.030|
|Interested activities after returning home (check all that apply)||Participate in NPO/NGO||1497||74.7||61.5||80.3||61.0||75.1||79.4||73.7||0.000|
|Be involved in community service||1493||58.5||50.4||50.0||47.6||62.5||64.7||56.9||0.000|
|Utilize JOCV experience at work||1496||86.0||86.7||78.7||85.6||89.5||87.2||85.6||0.021|
|Start a business with foreign countries||1495||29.6||46.2||36.1||39.8||28.7||29.1||33.2||0.000|
|Volunteer at international organization||1495||67.6||55.6||70.9||64.5||75.2||76.1||69.6||0.000|
|Keep in touch with host country||1497||95.0||90.2||94.3||94.7||97.1||95.4||94.8||0.110|
|Introduce JOCV at school/work||1497||86.0||77.6||78.7||74.3||90.0||87.3||83.4||0.000|
|Outreach (speech at seminar, appear on TV/radio, write, etc.)||1491||51.3||55.9||51.4||42.7||47.5||56.2||51.1||0.051|
|Desired career after returning home (multiple answers allowed)||Student (in Japan)||1500||16.1||21.7||19.6||12.8||15.9||17.3||17.0||0.292|
|Back to school/work I belong to||1500||17.1||12.6||11.8||13.4||15.9||11.8||14.1||0.283|
|Not in particular||1500||13.7||7.7||12.2||17.1||12.6||14.4||13.3||0.222|
In this Appendix, an analysis of variance (ANOVA) table (i), and the results of Tukey–Kramer multiple comparisons (ii) are provided for variables (a)–(h). The results of the Tukey–Kramer multiple comparisons are illustrated as connected lines between the clusters that are significantly different at the five percent level.
Appendix 2: (i) Analysis of Variance (ANOVA)
|(a) Concern about JOCV|
|Job after returning home||1499||3.39||0.005***|
|Friend/family in Japan||1499||2.61||0.023**|
|Lack of skill||1271||1.47||0.197|
|Lose my competitiveness||1498||1.75||0.121|
|Isolation from information||1499||0.56||0.728|
|(b) Images of developing countries|
|People help each other||1426||2.02||0.073*|
|Not so different from developed countries||1447||1.27||0.273|
|Need foreign aid/intervention/help||1437||3.21||0.007***|
|Equal partner with us||1429||0.58||0.712|
|We need to learn from them||1435||0.90||0.480|
|(c) Images of volunteering|
|For people or society||1482||9.14||0.000***|
|Sense of adventure||1482||1.23||0.290|
|Needs knowledge and experience||1482||1.05||0.386|
|Can utilize knowledge and experience||1482||2.44||0.033**|
|Opportunity for personal growth||1483||3.06||0.009***|
|(d) Domestic issues to care about|
|(e) International issues to care about|
|(f) Degree of trust|
|(g) Human nature|
|Human nature is good||1486||3.35||0.001***|
|(h) Lottery win allocation|
|Give it to family||1469||2.00||0.076*|
|Give it to friends||1469||0.63||0.679|
|Donation to disaster victims||1469||4.19||0.001***|
|Donation to international agency||1469||6.15||0.000***|
|Donation to charity in Japan||1469||3.49||0.004***|
Appendix 2: (ii) Tukey–Kramer Multiple Comparisons
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Okabe, Y., Shiratori, S. & Suda, K. What Motivates Japan’s International Volunteers? Categorizing Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs). Voluntas 30, 1069–1089 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-019-00110-x
- Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs)
- International volunteers
- Cluster analysis