Australian Bureau of Statistics

Rate the ABS website
ABS Home > Statistics > By Release Date
ABS @ Facebook ABS @ Twitter ABS RSS ABS Email notification service
4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2002  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 09/05/2002   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product  
Contents >> Work >> Unpaid Work: Voluntary work

Unpaid Work: Voluntary work

In 2000, 32% of the population aged 18 years and over had performed some voluntary work in the preceding 12 months, up from 24% in 1995.

Recent events have raised the public profile of volunteers, who make a valuable contribution to a wide range of nonprofit organisations. The United Nations declared 2001 the International Year of Volunteers, acknowledging their important role in social development. Activities to recognise and celebrate the role of volunteers in building a strong and cohesive society took place throughout the year in Australia. Volunteers were also recognised in Australia for their role in the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and late in 2001 widespread bushfires called attention to the work of emergency services volunteers.

As well as the economic value of the services volunteers provide, there is much interest in the role of volunteers in building social networks and increasing social cohesion. Thus, as well as information on the hours worked and activities undertaken by volunteers, there is interest in people's reasons for volunteering, how they were recruited, and how the likelihood of volunteering varies among the population.


Voluntary work
The second national Survey of Voluntary Work was conducted by the ABS during 2000. Information was collected from people aged 18 years and over about voluntary work they had performed in the previous twelve months.

People who did voluntary work overseas, or whose only voluntary work was for the Sydney 2000 Olympic or Paralympic Games, were excluded from the survey. The large number of Olympic volunteers would have impacted on the survey results and affected comparability with the first national survey, conducted in 1995.

People who performed voluntary work to satisfy a requirement to receive government benefits, such as those in work-for-the-dole programs, were also excluded from the survey. However, those who undertook voluntary work as part of a more flexible 'mutual obligation' program under which they had a choice between undertaking study or work, were included.

A volunteer is someone who willingly gives unpaid help, in the form of time, service or skills, through an organisation or group.

The volunteer rate for any group (for example, an age group) is the number of volunteers in that group expressed as a percentage of the total population of that group.

Many people volunteer for more than one organisation. For each person, information was collected about the volunteer work done for up to three organisations. The work done by a person for an organisation is termed a volunteer involvement.


Change over time
Between 1995 and 2000, there was substantial growth in the number of volunteers, from 3.2 million to 4.4 million. There were increases across all age groups, for both sexes. As a result of the increase in the number of volunteers, there was an increase in the total amount of voluntary work performed. Annual hours totalled 511.7 million in 1995 and this rose to 704.1 million in 2000. The average hours per volunteer did not change, remaining at 3.1 per week.

The proportion of the population who volunteered increased from almost a quarter (24%) to almost a third (32%). The age pattern of volunteering remained similar, with those aged 35-44 years the most likely to volunteer (32% of this age group volunteered in 1995 and 40% in 2000.)

VOLUNTEERS

Source: Voluntary Work, 2000 (ABS cat. no. 4441.0).


Geographical differences
In 2000, the volunteer rate was higher outside capital cities (38%, compared with 28% in capital cities). This was the case across all age groups, for both sexes. A similar pattern was apparent in 1995, with a volunteer rate of 21% for capital cities and 29% for other areas.

VOLUNTEER RATE(a): TYPE OF ORGANISATION - 2000

(a) People who volunteered for each type of organisation expressed as a proportion of the population of each area. As people could volunteer for more than one type of organisation, rates by type of organisation do not sum to the total rate.

Source: Voluntary Work, 2000 (ABS cat. no. 4441.0).


There were higher rates outside capital cities for most types of voluntary work, with particularly large differences for the two leading types. In areas outside of capital cities, 13% of the population volunteered for at least one community or welfare organisation (compared with 8% in capital cities), and 12% volunteered for a sport or recreation organisation (compared with 8% in capital cities). Less pronounced differences were observed for the other leading types of voluntary work: education, training and youth development (8.6% compared with 7.8%), and religious work (5.6% compared with 5.4%). Volunteering for emergency services was six times higher outside capital cities, the greatest proportional difference between the rates for the two areas, but this was a less common type of volunteering in both areas (3.0% compared with 0.5%).

VOLUNTEER RATE: STATES AND TERRITORIES - 2000

Capital city
Balance of State
Total
State/Territory
%
%
%

NSW
24.7
37.6
29.3
Vic.
28.9
43.8
32.8
Qld
30.2
32.1
31.2
SA
35.8
44.5
38.0
WA
28.2
44.6
32.2
Tas.
31.5
35.7
34.0
NT
31.6
32.0
31.7
ACT
36.2
-
36.2

Australia
28.4
38.1
31.8

Source: Voluntary Work, 2000 (ABS cat. no. 4441.0).


The most marked difference between the volunteer rates for a capital city and the balance of the State was observed in Western Australia, where the rate was 28% in Perth and 45% elsewhere. In New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, there was likewise a considerable difference between the volunteer rates for the capital city and the balance of the State. However, in Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory the difference was relatively small. In these two States and the Northern Territory, the volunteer rates for areas outside capital cities were low compared with other States, while the volunteer rates for Darwin, Brisbane and Hobart were comparable with those of other capital cities.

The volunteer rate of 45% for areas of Western Australia outside of Perth was the highest of any area, and the rate of 25% for Sydney was the lowest. The greatest difference between the rates for Sydney and other capital cities was in the 25-34 years age group. In this age group Sydney's volunteer rate was 15% while rates for other cities ranged from 26% (Melbourne) to 35% (Adelaide). Largely as a result of the low rate for Sydney, New South Wales had the lowest overall rate of any State (29%).

VOLUNTEER RATE(a): GEOGRAPHICAL AREA - 2000

(a) Volunteers as a proportion of the population of each age in each area.

Source: Voluntary Work, 2000 (ABS cat. no. 4441.0).


Who volunteers? How much do they do?
The likelihood of volunteering appears to be related to stages in the life cycle. In 2000, 27% of 18-24 year olds and 28% of 25-34 year olds volunteered, but the proportion who volunteered was substantially higher in the next age group, 35-44 year olds (40%). The likelihood of volunteering then declined slowly with age, to 30% of 65-74 year olds, before dropping more markedly for those in the oldest age group, 75 years and over (18%). Whereas the rate of volunteering peaked in the 35-44 years age group, the median hours worked by volunteers tended to increase steadily with age, to peak at 2.5 hours per week for ages 65-74 years.

VOLUNTEER RATES: SEX AND AGE - 2000

Source: Voluntary Work, 2000 (ABS cat. no. 4441.0).


There were some differences in the volunteer rates of men and women. In age groups under 45 years women both volunteered more and contributed more hours than men. In particular, there was a pronounced peak in the female volunteer rate for 35-44 year olds (45% in 2000) which was not the case for men. (In 2000, the highest male rate was 35% and this occurred among 35-44 year olds and 45-54 year olds). At older ages both the volunteer rate and median hours were slightly higher for men (except for median hours in the oldest age group). Overall, the volunteer rate was slightly higher for women than men (33% compared with 31%) as were median hours per week (1.4 compared with 1.2).

VOLUNTEER RATES FOR PERSONS WITH SELECTED CHARACTERISTICS - 2000

Males
Females
Persons
%
%
%

Relationship in household(a)
    Family member
      Husband, wife or partner
        without dependant children(b)
29.4
27.5
28.5
        with dependant children(b)
37.6
45.4
41.6
      Lone parent
30.9
33.0
32.6
      Dependant student(b)
26.5
44.0
36.8
      Non-dependant child
24.3
25.8
24.9
    Non-family member
      Lone person
23.2
29.3
26.5
      Other
25.8
19.7
23.2
Labour force status (18-64 years)
    Employed, working full-time
33.7
30.5
32.7
    Employed, working part-time
29.4
44.5
40.7
    Unemployed
21.2
33.6
27.1
    Not in labour force
23.0
29.2
27.2

(a) The relationship of the individual to others in their household. Only relationship types for which reliable data could be calculated have been included.
(b) Dependant children are those who are living in a one-parent or couple household and are either aged under 15 years or are aged 15-24 years and full-time students (dependent students), except those who are classified as husbands, wives or lone parents.

Source: Voluntary Work, 2000 (ABS cat. no. 4441.0).


The likelihood of volunteering varied according to the type of household to which people belonged. Volunteering was highest among people living with a partner and children (42%), and higher for women in this situation (45%) than men (38%). This is consistent with the peak in the female rate at ages 35-44 years, and may reflect the effect of having children in the home, as mothers in particular often become involved in voluntary tasks associated with their children's activities. However, the highest median hours were observed for volunteers who were lone parents or who lived alone (1.7 hours per week in each case), followed by couples without children in the home (1.5 hours per week).

VOLUNTEERS: MEDIAN WEEKLY HOURS SPENT VOLUNTEERING - 2000

Source: Voluntary Work, 2000 (ABS cat. no. 4441.0).


Among those aged under 65 years, people in paid employment were more likely to volunteer than others. However, there were differences between men and women in this regard. Among men those in full-time employment had the highest volunteer rate in 2000 (34%), followed by those in part-time employment (29%). Both groups had a higher rate than men who were not in the labour force (23%) or were unemployed (21%). In contrast, among women, there was a particularly high rate for those working part-time (45%), and the rate for unemployed women (34%) exceeded that of women employed full-time (31%) and those not in the labour force (29%).

While employed people were more likely to volunteer than others, it was volunteers who were not in the labour force who tended to contribute more hours. In 2000, the median hours of people aged under 64 years and not in the labour force were 1.9 per week, compared with 1.6 hours per week for unemployed people, 1.5 hours per week for people who worked part-time and 1.2 hours per week for people who worked full-time.

VOLUNTEER RATES: SEX AND LABOUR FORCE STATUS, PEOPLE AGED 18-64 YEARS - 2000

Source: Voluntary Work, 2000 (ABS cat. no. 4441.0).


What do they do?
In 2000, over a third of volunteers (35%) had worked for more than one organisation in the preceding 12 months. Most volunteer involvements with a particular organisation were on a regular basis: either weekly (37%), fortnightly (12%) or monthly (20%).

Volunteers worked in many fields. Community or welfare organisations and sports or recreation organisations each accounted for about 1.5 million involvements. Education, training and youth development organisations (1.2 million involvements) and religious organisations (772,000 involvements) also attracted substantial numbers of volunteers. Volunteer involvements for the remaining seven types of organisation ranged from 339,100 for health organisations to 43,500 for foreign or international organisations. Sport and recreation was the leading type among male volunteers (910,000 involvements) and community/welfare the leading type among female volunteers (904,200 involvements).

A volunteer might contribute only one type of activity to an organisation, or undertake a broader range of tasks. The most common type of activities undertaken were 'white collar' activities such as fundraising, undertaken by 46% of volunteers, management (35%), teaching (36%) and administration (33%). Preparing and serving food (30%), transporting people or goods (23%) and undertaking repairs, maintenance or gardening (22%) were the next most common activities.

The type of voluntary work people undertook was related to their paid occupations. Managers and administrators tended to be involved in management and committee work (48% compared with 34% of other volunteers). Professionals tended to teach (51% compared with 33%), and tradespersons were more likely to undertake repairs, gardening or maintenance (41% compared with 20%).

Volunteer work also reflected the traditional roles of men and women. Women were more likely than men to prepare and serve food (39% compared with 19%). Men were more likely than women to undertake repairs, maintenance and gardening (33% compared with 12%).

VOLUNTEER INVOLVEMENTS: TYPE OF ORGANISATION - 2000

Source: Voluntary Work, 2000 (ABS cat. no. 4441.0).


Reasons for volunteering
People who had first done some kind of voluntary work within the previous 10 years were asked how they became involved. The great majority became involved in this type of work through personal contact of some kind (82%), suggesting that volunteering not only builds social networks but grows out of them. Most often, people became involved because someone asked them (32%), they knew someone involved (29%), or they were already involved in the organisation (22%). A small proportion found out about voluntary work themselves (8%), while relatively few had responded to a media report or advertisement (4%).

The leading two reasons given for doing voluntary work were to help others or the community (47%) and to gain personal satisfaction (43%). Related to both of these responses might be the desire to do something worthwhile, given as a reason for volunteering by 30%. Some people saw their voluntary work as stemming naturally from involvement in an organisation: 31% gave personal or family involvement as a reason. This might be a reason offered by those who undertook tasks for their church, sports team, or their child's school, for example. Others related their voluntary work to religious beliefs (12%).


SYDNEY 2000 OLYMPIC GAMES
According to the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG), 47,800 people worked as volunteers in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. About 15,000 people worked as volunteers in the 2000 Paralympic Games, and many of these had already volunteered in the Olympic Games. Most of the Sydney Olympic volunteers were New South Wales residents (80%). Compared with other volunteers, the Sydney Olympic volunteers had a younger age profile. Those under 25 years made up 23% of Olympic volunteers and most of the remaining volunteers were of working age (9% were aged over 64 years). About half were specialist volunteers contributing professional skills. These included sports volunteers with roles in events (field-of-play volunteers) and those with skills in sports medicine, information technology, broadcasting and translating. The remainder were general volunteers who performed tasks such as driving buses, providing information and staffing ticket gates.1

One of the benefits to Sydney of staging the Olympic Games was said to be that it would gain a unique, trained volunteer workforce. It was also hoped that the event might encourage more people to volunteer for other events or programs.2

SYDNEY 2000 OLYMPIC VOLUNTEERS

Males
Females
Persons
Age (years)
%
%
%

Under 25
8.9
13.7
22.6
25-34
7.2
9.3
16.5
35-44
8.1
8.4
16.4
45-54
9.1
10.6
19.7
55-64
8.3
7.6
16.0
65 and over
5.9
2.8
8.7
Total
47.5
52.3
100.0

Source: SOCOG, administrative data.


As well as general personal satisfaction, some specific benefits of involvement for volunteers were given as reasons. These were social contact (18%), to use skills or experience (13%), to be active (11%), to learn new skills (7%) and to gain work experience (4%).

In almost every age group, the two leading reasons for volunteering were to help others or the community and to gain personal satisfaction, while wanting to do something worthwhile was consistently ranked third or fourth. However, in some other respects the types of reason given tended to vary by age. Gaining work experience was given as a reason by 17% of 18-24 year old volunteers, but by less than 4% of any other age group. Personal or family involvement was the leading reason for volunteering among 35-44 year olds (49%), but was less prominent in younger and older age groups. Reasons more common among those aged 65 years and over than in other age groups were social contact (28%), to be active (19%) and religious beliefs (17%).

REASONS FOR VOLUNTEERING - 2000

How first became involved(a)
%
    Someone asked me
31.7
    Knew someone involved
28.6
    Self/family involvement in organisation
21.9
    Found out about it myself
8.4
    Saw ad/report in the media
4.0
    Other
5.5
    Total
100
Current reasons(b)
%
    To help others/community
47.0
    Personal satisfaction
42.7
    Personal/family involvement
31.3
    To do something worthwhile
29.5
    Social contact
17.9
    Use skills/experience
12.7
    Religious beliefs
11.9
    To be active
10.8
    To learn new skills
6.7
    Felt obliged
5.7
    Gain work experience
3.9
    Just happened
3.0

(a) Volunteers who had been involved in voluntary work 10 years or less were asked how they first became involved.
(b) All volunteers were asked their current reasons for doing voluntary work. Volunteers could give more than one reason, so reasons do not add to 100%.

Source: Voluntary Work, 2000 (ABS cat. no. 4441.0).


Endnotes
1 'SOCOG wants 50,000 volunteers' <URL:http://www.picosearch.com/cgi-bin/ts/>, (accessed 19 November 2001).

2 Sherill Nixon 'Volunteering has a new appeal' <URL:http://www.olympics.smh.com.au/news/2000/10/05/>, (accessed 19 November 2001).


Previous PageNext Page

Bookmark and Share. Opens in a new window


Commonwealth of Australia 2014

Unless otherwise noted, content on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia Licence together with any terms, conditions and exclusions as set out in the website Copyright notice. For permission to do anything beyond the scope of this licence and copyright terms contact us.