The Worth of Their Work: The (In)visible Value of Refugee Volunteers in the Transnational Humanitarian Aid Sector

Research output: Contribution to book/conference proceedings/anthology/reportChapter in book/anthology/reportContributed


Scholarship on invisible work highlights how volunteers’ labour is devalued and obfuscated because it is framed as something ‘noneconomic’. This article shows how volunteers’ labour is invisible and noneconomic when it is reframed as aid. Drawing upon a case of refugee volunteers in Jordan’s humanitarian aid sector highlights how framing work as aid transforms their labour into objects they ‘receive’ and ‘consume’ as benefits because ‘work’ is understood as something they lack or need. Volunteers are therefore both workers and beneficiaries in relation to aid organisations. This ambiguous positioning distinguishes them and what they do in the workplace from ‘work’. This case elaborates understandings of processes that delineate volunteer labour as invisible work in practice, and provides a starting point for further discussion on the relationship between invisible and insecure work. It also expands empirical knowledge on volunteering and invisible work within the Global South.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWork Employment and Society (WES)
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherSAGE/British Sociology Association
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2022

External IDs

unpaywall 10.1177/09500170221082481
Scopus 85131752135
Mendeley 5f79663a-e181-32ad-b979-81d55225754a
WOS 000810499300001


Research priority areas of TU Dresden


  • Global South, humanitarian aid, invisible work, refugees, volunteer work