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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2002  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/01/2002   
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Contents >> Income and Welfare >> Voluntary work in 2000

VOLUNTARY WORK IN 2000

INTRODUCTION

Voluntary work is an important contribution to national life. It meets needs within the community and helps to develop and reinforce social networks and cohesion. The importance of voluntary work was recognised by the United Nations when it declared the year 2001 as the International Year of Volunteers (IYV). By participating in IYV, Australia aimed to achieve the following objectives:

  • to recognise and celebrate the outstanding contribution volunteers make to a strong, cohesive Australian society;
  • to have community, business, the media and government working together to build an Australian society that encourages and nurtures a culture of volunteering; and
  • to support Australian communities in their engagement in valuable and productive voluntary activities.

In conjunction with the IYV, the ABS released the results of the Survey of Voluntary Work, conducted in 2000. In the survey, a volunteer was defined as someone who, in the last 12 months, willingly gave unpaid help in the form of time, service or skills, through an organisation or group. Estimates from the survey excluded people whose only voluntary work was performed overseas and those whose only voluntary work was for the Sydney Olympic and/or Paralympic Games.


Change in volunteering over time

There were 4,395,600 adult volunteers (aged 18 years and over) in 2000, representing 32% of the civilian population of the same age. In 1995 the 3,189,400 volunteers represented 24% of the population. Growth in volunteer rates occurred for both sexes, and across all age groups, but particularly the groups 18-24 (from 17% to 27%) and 55-64 (from 24% to 33%) (table 7.1).

In 2000, volunteers contributed 704 million hours of voluntary work, an increase on the 1995 total of 512 million hours. However, the median weekly hours of voluntary work remained stable at 1.4.


Who volunteers?

Volunteer rates varied across different groups in the population. They were slightly higher for women than for men (33% compared to 31%) and, with a few exceptions, this was the case regardless of family status, labour force status or birthplace. The volunteer rate for partnered people without dependent children was slightly higher for men than for women, as was the rate for people employed full-time.

People born in Australia were more likely to undertake voluntary work than those born outside Australia, 35% and 25% respectively.


7.1 VOLUNTEER RATE - 1995 and 2000

1995
2000
Males
Females
Persons
Persons
Males
Females
Persons
Persons
%
%
%
'000
%
%
%
'000

Relationship in household
Family member
Husband, wife or partner -
- With dependent children
32.2
30.8
31.4
1,316.8
37.6
45.4
41.6
1,726.4
- Without dependent children
22.1
21.6
21.9
931.2
29.4
27.5
28.5
1,323.2
- Total(a)
26.8
26.5
26.6
2,247.9
33.7
35.4
34.5
3,124.7
Lone parent
21.4
19.6
20.0
146.2
30.9
33.0
32.6
241.6
Other family member
16.3
19.7
17.7
249.9
22.8
29.0
25.5
415.1
Total family member
24.9
25.0
25.0
2,644.0
31.8
34.4
33.1
3,781.4
Total non-family member
15.2
21.1
17.8
430.7
24.2
26.4
25.3
614.2
Total(b)
22.9
24.4
23.6
3,189.4
30.5
33.0
31.8
4,395.6
Labour force status -
- Employed full time
25.6
21.0
24.1
1,425.3
33.9
30.5
32.8
2,037.9
- Employed part time
29.2
32.6
31.7
700.7
31.3
44.4
40.9
1,055.7
- Unemployed
13.3
22.3
16.8
112.2
21.1
33.6
27.0
146.6
- Not in the labour force
16.4
22.2
20.2
951.1
23.0
27.2
25.6
1,155.4
- Total
22.9
24.4
23.6
3,189.4
30.5
33.0
31.8
4,395.6
Birthplace -
- Born in Australia
25.9
26.5
26.2
2,589.0
33.2
35.4
34.3
3,390.9
- Born outside Australia
15.4
18.0
16.6
600.4
24.3
26.6
25.4
1,004.7
- Total
22.9
24.4
23.6
3,189.4
30.5
33.0
31.8
4,395.6

(a) 2000 data include couples in multifamily households.
(b) 1995 data include 115,000 households where relationship could not be determined.

Source:Voluntary Work 2000 (4441.0).


The pattern of volunteering varied with age and life stage. Among the older age groups, volunteer rates were marginally higher for men than for women (graph 7.2). People aged 35-44 years reported the highest rate of volunteering (40%). At these ages people are more likely to be married with children, and their higher than average volunteer rate reflects their family commitments. This is most marked for women. Thus, partnered women with dependent children had a volunteer rate of 45% compared to 28% for partnered women without dependent children. Women employed part-time had a higher volunteer rate (44%) than those employed full-time (31%).



Hours

Because most volunteers contributed relatively few hours, while a minority worked for a large number of hours, the arithmetic mean is a misleading measure of hours worked by the average volunteer. The median is a more appropriate measure for purposes of comparison.

The median hours of voluntary work per week was 1.4 or about 72 hours per year. This was greater for women than men (74 hours compared to 64 hours). Although the number of volunteers was highest in the age group 35-44 years, median hours of voluntary work tended to increase steadily with age, up to the 65-74 years age group where the median hours were 2.5 per week (table 7.3). This relates to the decrease in family and paid work commitments with advancing age.

People in paid employment, either full-time or part-time, were more likely to volunteer than those who were unemployed or not in the labour force. However, in aggregate, people not in the labour force contributed slightly more hours of voluntary work per year (265 million hours) than people who were employed full-time (261 million) or part-time (154 million). This pattern differed for men and women. For men the largest contribution (58% of male hours) came from those employed full-time while for women the largest contribution (44% of female hours) was made by those not in the labour force. People not in the labour force also had the highest median weekly hours of voluntary work (2.1), while those employed full-time had the lowest (1.0).

7.3 MEDIAN HOURS OF VOLUNTARY WORK, Sex By Age and Labour Force Status - 2000

Males
Females
Persons
no.
no.
no.

Age group (years)
18-24
1.0
1.1
1.1
25-34
0.7
0.9
0.8
35-44
1.0
1.5
1.4
45-54
1.5
1.4
1.5
55-64
1.9
1.8
1.9
65-74
2.5
2.5
2.5
75 and over
*1.4
*2.9
2.3
Total
1.2
1.4
1.4
Labour force status
Employed full-time
1.1
1.0
1.0
Employed part-time
1.2
1.4
1.4
Unemployed
*1.2
*1.5
1.4
Not in the labour force
2.4
2.0
2.1
Total
1.2
1.4
1.4


Source:Voluntary Work 2000 (4441.0).


Volunteer involvements

Almost two-thirds of volunteers (65%) worked for one organisation only and a further 31% worked for two or three. There was a slight variation by age, with younger people more likely than others to work for only one organisation and the middle age group (45-54 years) more likely to work for three or more organisations.

Two types of organisations together claimed almost half of all volunteer hours: community/welfare (26%) and sport/recreation (21%) (graph 7.4). Together with religious (17%) and education/training/youth development (14%) organisations, they accounted for almost 80% of all volunteer hours. These four categories were also the largest in terms of the number of volunteers involved.

Men who volunteered were most likely to be involved in sporting or recreational organisations. For women, community/welfare organisations involved the largest number. Although there were slightly more female than male volunteers overall, there were many more male involvements than female in the fields of sport/recreation, business/professional/union, and emergency services.

Types of voluntary activities

As is the case for people in paid employment, volunteers perform a range of different tasks when undertaking voluntary work. The activities most frequently reported by volunteers were fundraising (56%), management (45%), teaching (44%) and administration (41%).

The sex segregation observed among some occupations for paid work is also evident in voluntary work activities. For example, female volunteers were much more likely than male volunteers to be preparing and serving food (47% compared to 23%) whereas men were more likely than women to be involved in such activities as repairs, maintenance and gardening (38% compared to 14%), and coaching, refereeing and judging (29% compared to 16%) (graph 7.5).




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