Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

High employee turnover rates constitute a major challenge to effective aid provision. This study examines how features of humanitarian work and aid workers' individual characteristics affect retention within one humanitarian organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Holland. The study extends existing research by providing new theoretical explanations of employment opportunities and constraints and by engaging in the first large-scale quantitative analysis of aid worker retention. Using a database of field staff (N=1,955), a logistic regression is performed of the likelihood of reenlistment after a first mission. The findings demonstrate that only 40 per cent of employees reenlist for a second mission with MSF Holland, and that workplace location and security situation, age, and gender have no significant effect. Individuals are less likely to reenlist if they returned early from the first mission for a personal reason, are in a relationship, are medical doctors, or if they come from highly developed countries. The paper reflects on the findings in the light of policy.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





522 - 545


aid worker, humanitarian organisations, personnel policy, retention, staff turnover, Altruism, Female, Health Status, Humans, Interpersonal Relations, Male, Netherlands, Personnel Turnover, Physicians, Relief Work, Residence Characteristics, Safety, Social Responsibility