Stress leads staff to serve abroad

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BRITISH WORKERS, fed up with their jobs, are flocking to work as volunteers overseas, giving up high salaries and a comfortable way of life at home.

Skilled applicants to Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) the world's biggest independent volunteer agency, are up by one-third in the past six months as a survey shows declining job satisfaction in the United Kingdom and a growing determination to find work that is meaningful.

Applications from nurses, doctors and therapists are up by 55 per cent, from construction workers by 68 per cent and from English teachers by 77 per cent.

A survey conducted by VSO among employees in Britain found that more than half of people thought they were forced to become workaholics to keep up with the demands of their jobs. More than one in four felt their values were different from those of their employers.

Of the 1,000 people interviewed, almost two-thirds said that given the choice between a job they enjoyed and one that paid more but was less enjoyable, they would choose the job they enjoyed.

Jonathan Dimbleby, television presenter and president of VSO, said: "I was startled by the figures. Although it is good news for VSO it must be bad news that there is such a high degree of dissatisfaction, anxiety and unhappiness in the workforce."

VSO had 19,000 applicants in the past six months. The agency has 2,000 volunteers working in more than 50 countries. They get board and lodging and a subsistence payment.

Monica Evans, a nurse in an accident and emergency department, is going to Tanzania as a clinical nurse tutor for VSO. She left the NHS because of the stressful conditions and rising levels of aggression and violence. "You go into nursing because you want to help people and after eight years I just didn't feel I was helping anybody. I was not getting the back-up and support I needed from my managers to cope with such stressful conditions," she said.