What Motivates Japan’s International Volunteers? Categorizing Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs)

Abstract

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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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    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).

  2. 2.

    Recently a few international comparative studies on overseas volunteering including Asian cases have emerged. See Brassard et al. (2010) and Lough and Tiessen (2018). Their focus was not on volunteers’ motivations, however.

  3. 3.

    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.

  4. 4.

    For the history of JOCV program, see Okabe (2016).

  5. 5.

    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).

  6. 6.

    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/.

  7. 7.

    JICA Website (accessed 2 March 2019) https://www.jica.go.jp/volunteer/outline/publication/results/.

  8. 8.

    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/.

  9. 9.

    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.

  10. 10.

    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).

  11. 11.

    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.

  12. 12.

    On multiple motives of international volunteers, see also Georgeou (2012, Ch. 5).

  13. 13.

    Houle et al. (2005) argues that differences in motives influence work efficiency in (domestic) volunteer services.

  14. 14.

    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.

  15. 15.

    The Japanese fiscal year starts in April. Each fiscal year volunteers are dispatched in four batches.

  16. 16.

    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.

  17. 17.

    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.

  18. 18.

    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).

  19. 19.

    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.

  20. 20.

    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.

  21. 21.

    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.

  22. 22.

    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.

  23. 23.

    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).

  24. 24.

    Note that the chi-square test is conducted for the frequency, not for the percentage.

  25. 25.

    Authors are grateful to a referee for suggesting that vocational typology by Holland (1973) merits attention.

  26. 26.

    Only G has principal component loading higher than the absolute value of 0.4.

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Acknowledgements

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

Funding was provided by Japan International Cooperation Agency Research Institute.

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Appendices

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 (%)
Sex Male 1475 36.7 51.4 33.2 42.7 43.8 37.2 39.5 0.005
Female   63.3 48.6 66.8 57.3 56.2 62.8 60.5  
Age 20–24 1439 22.6 16.7 14.0 17.7 15.6 16.3 17.6 0.364
25–29   46.5 53.6 51.3 46.9 50.2 48.3 49.0  
30–34   20.6 23.9 22.5 26.3 25.5 24.3 23.5  
35   10.3 5.8 12.3 9.1 8.7 11.0 9.9  
JOCV job classificationa Education/culture 1255 50.3 43.1 39.7 52.0 45.7 47.6 46.7 0.017
Agriculture/forestry/fisheries   21.1 21.1 25.6 14.7 13.1 17.1 19.0  
Health/medical care   17.0 18.7 20.6 21.3 24.6 21.5 20.4  
Planning and administration   5.7 8.9 8.2 6.7 5.5 3.3 6.1  
Maintenance/operation   1.3 1.6 1.8 2.7 2.5 2.4 2.0  
Other   4.7 6.5 4.1 2.7 8.5 8.1 5.8  
Educationb Less than college/university 1462 13.6 13.6 12.6 22.0 20.2 19.5 16.8 0.012
College/university completed   68.1 65.0 64.7 62.1 66.5 66.6 65.9  
Higher than college/university   18.0 21.4 21.9 15.9 12.9 12.9 16.8  
Other   0.3 0.0 0.8 0.0 0.4 1.0 0.5  
Status during JOCV activitiesc Not working 1506 28.4 25.5 29.7 27.7 23.3 28.7 27.5 0.013
Recently graduated   14.5 9.0 6.5 11.7 7.9 13.0 11.0  
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  
Other   1.1 1.4 1.2 0.5 0.0 1.0 0.9  
Previous employment statusd Permanent staff 1505 42.5 52.4 52.7 59.0 64.4 53.8 53.0 0.004
Fixed-term employee   14.2 11.0 11.4 7.5 7.1 7.8 10.2  
Part-time job   11.8 11.0 8.6 11.2 7.1 11.1 10.2  
Unemployed   8.7 6.9 9.4 4.8 8.4 7.8 7.9  
Student   19.2 13.8 13.5 13.3 8.4 14.7 14.4  
Temporary worker   2.1 1.4 4.1 2.1 2.9 2.0 2.5  
Other   1.6 3.5 0.4 2.1 1.7 2.9 1.9  
Previous work typee,f Teacher 1168 21.5 14.0 11.1 9.8 16.1 16.0 15.5 0.036
Local government   8.8 7.0 9.5 7.2 8.5 6.7 8.1  
Public interest   5.1 3.5 3.7 2.6 5.5 8.8 5.2  
Private company   49.6 56.1 61.1 66.0 57.3 51.3 55.9  
Government   1.1 3.5 2.6 2.0 3.0 4.2 2.7  
NPO/NGO/international organization   4.7 4.4 6.3 1.3 1.5 1.7 3.3  
Self-employed   2.6 3.5 1.6 1.3 3.0 2.9 2.5  
Other   6.6 7.9 4.2 9.8 5.0 8.4 6.9  
Travel experience (check all that apply) Abroad 1506 94.5 96.6 97.6 93.6 92.1 96.1 95.0 0.069
Developing countries 1225 79.2 76.5 80.3 75.0 66.0 69.4 74.6 0.002
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
Nature conservation 1484 27.2 28.2 27.5 27.0 23.9 33.6 28.1 0.232
Service for elderly/disabled 1490 55.5 45.1 50.8 45.5 49.4 55.4 51.5 0.082
Youth service 1479 28.7 29.1 24.1 19.7 20.9 28.0 25.5 0.074
International exchange/support for foreigners 1489 53.7 52.4 63.0 46.5 39.2 57.7 52.7 0.000
Political activities 1479 9.2 11.3 10.3 7.6 4.7 6.9 8.2 0.137
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
Study languages 1502 47.9 45.5 45.5 46.0 57.9 56.5 50.4 0.006
Improve skills 1502 31.6 34.3 30.9 27.8 27.5 39.5 32.2 0.033
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
Other 1502 4.5 7.7 0.8 4.3 6.3 5.6 4.7 0.022
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
Found NPO/NGO 1492 15.9 21.0 26.2 12.8 14.4 21.0 18.5 0.001
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
Student (abroad) 1500 24.0 30.8 34.3 20.9 18.4 20.9 24.4 0.000
Teacher 1500 22.4 18.9 10.6 15.5 23.0 21.6 19.2 0.002
Government/local government 1500 14.5 16.1 15.9 17.1 15.9 13.7 15.3 0.917
Private company 1500 30.8 35.0 37.6 34.8 33.9 29.4 33.0 0.356
NPO/NGO 1500 19.2 18.2 27.4 21.4 21.3 19.0 21.0 0.147
International organization 1500 23.4 32.9 31.4 23.5 28.0 27.1 27.1 0.124
Self-employed 1500 7.6 8.4 3.3 10.2 8.0 6.9 7.2 0.118
Back to school/work I belong to 1500 17.1 12.6 11.8 13.4 15.9 11.8 14.1 0.283
Other 1500 5.0 7.0 4.1 6.4 3.4 4.9 4.9 0.573
Not in particular 1500 13.7 7.7 12.2 17.1 12.6 14.4 13.3 0.222
  1. Significance at 5% level is indicated by boldface
  2. a“Maintenance/Operation” and “Other” are combined when the test for independence is conducted
  3. b“Other” is excluded when the test for independence is conducted
  4. c“Taking off from school” and “other” are excluded when the test for independence is conducted
  5. d“Temporary worker” and “Other” are combined when the test for independence is conducted
  6. eExcludes sample whose previous employment is either a student or unemployed
  7. f“Government”, “NPO/NGO/International organization”, “Self-employed”, and “Other” are combined when the test for independence is conducted

Appendix 2

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)

  ANOVA
  n F p value
(a) Concern about JOCV
Accommodation 1494 6.11 0.000***
Activities 1499 4.81 0.000***
Human relationship 1497 3.70 0.003***
Language 1498 2.74 0.018**
Safety 1499 2.24 0.048**
Health 1500 1.79 0.113
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
Never grow 1439 3.22 0.007***
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
Unpaid 1482 1.81 0.107
Voluntary 1482 4.27 0.001***
For people or society 1482 9.14 0.000***
Personal satisfaction 1483 2.92 0.013**
Sacrifice 1482 1.17 0.323
Hypocrisy 1482 2.06 0.068*
Sense of adventure 1482 1.23 0.290
Nosy 1483 1.11 0.356
Needs knowledge and experience 1482 1.05 0.386
Can utilize knowledge and experience 1482 2.44 0.033**
Communication 1482 1.65 0.144
Worthwhile 1483 3.27 0.006***
Opportunity for personal growth 1483 3.06 0.009***
Costs money 1483 2.54 0.027**
Time-consuming 1483 2.66 0.020**
(d) Domestic issues to care about
Poverty/job/disparity 1492 5.64 0.000***
Safety 1493 2.46 0.031**
Environment 1492 2.17 0.055*
Politics/human rights 1491 2.99 0.011**
Education 1492 7.09 0.000***
Medical/health/social security 1492 3.94 0.002***
(e) International issues to care about
Poverty/job/disparity 1493 10.22 0.000***
Safety 1493 3.94 0.002***
Environment 1491 1.71 0.129
Politics/human rights 1492 6.02 0.000***
Education 1492 7.51 0.000***
Medical/health/social security 1491 8.15 0.000***
(f) Degree of trust
Family 1490 1.67 0.139
Friends 1490 2.16 0.056*
Neighbors 1487 2.91 0.013**
Colleagues 1489 3.65 0.003***
Japanese 1487 3.09 0.009***
Foreigners 1487 4.47 0.001***
(g) Human nature
Human nature is good 1486 3.35 0.001***
(h) Lottery win allocation
My consumption/investment 1469 5.32 0.000***
Saving 1469 1.32 0.253
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***
Other 1469 0.69 0.630
  1. Significance is shown at ***1%, **5% *10% level

Appendix 2: (ii) Tukey–Kramer Multiple Comparisons

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figurec
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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

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Keywords

  • Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs)
  • Motivation
  • International volunteers
  • Typology
  • Cluster analysis