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

Yasunobu Okabe, Sakiko Shiratori, Kazuya Suda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1069-1089
Number of pages21
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Oct 1


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Strategy and Management


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