Fighting the good fight, but for what? – Results of the 2018 European Civil Society Survey on Labour Rights for Civil Society Workers

Could you imagine Europe without any civil society organizations?

It is hard to imagine our European community without all the activists, organizers and idealists in civic education who work tirelessly to promote the equal rights, diversity and solidarity in our society.

In the big picture, the importance of civil society organizations as one of the main institutionsadvocating rights and values, promoting cultural and civic engagement and contributing to the functioning of democracies is not in doubt.

Despite this importance, however, how much attention is given to the (financial) support of civil society organizations, especially small and medium-sized NGOs and how do we value them?

This survey was initiated, implemented and analysed in 2018 by members of CGE, partner organisations and free lancers with international experiences in their spare time (and is not connected to any currently funded project)*– because we think this matters. Greatly.

There were 118 respondents aged from 20 to above 65 years from different countries workingin the fields of Human Rights education and promotion, non-formal education, socio-cultural intervention and etc. 76 out of 118 participants were working in independent non-profit organisations or as freelancers. Representation of respondents by Europe regions: Western Europe – 51, Eastern Europe – 10,Northern Europe – 8 , South Europe -46, USA – 1, Lebanon -1 (Picture 1)


Working conditions (earnings and job security)

Respondents were asked to measure their level of satisfaction of salary and job security where 1 was equivalent of «not satisfied» and 5 was equivalent to a «very satisfied». 28% were satisfied and only 4.2% were very satisfied with their earnings while 67,8% of respondents were not satisfied.

In the case of job security, more than 59% of respondents measured their level of job security as less than satisfactory.

Around 64.4% of respondents replied as less than satisfied with their paid working hours.

Labour Rights and Unions

From the charts listed below, it seems obvious that in general, the majority of survey participants are not satisfied with the representation of the labour rights of workers in the field of civil society at the European level. Only 11.9% of all participants were members of any labour rights organization/ union. More than half of all participants either did not know about the existence of such organizations or believed that they did not exist at all in their country.


The results of the preliminary survey showed the existence of a problem on the situation of the working conditions of civil society workers. The lack of strong structural support in the form of trade unions and other organizations specifically fighting for the economic rights of free lancers, small and medium-sized independent NGOs shows the insecurity and vulnerability of the economic rights of NGO workers and freelancers. The problem of financial support and labour instability of civil society workers urgently require more research and the adoption of measures in the form of further discussions and public response to develop specific decisions and policies. We believe that a continued neglect of this problem may well threaten the very state of civil society at the national and European levels.

What do you think about the survey results? Please, let us know!

* since the implementation of the survey we have continuously worked on finding funding for a second survey and connected activities. If you are interested in joining, please let us know via or

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