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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1997  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/06/1997   
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Contents >> Work >> Unpaid Work: Voluntary work

Unpaid Work: Voluntary work

In 1994-95, 19% of Australians undertook some voluntary work. Women were more likely than men to volunteer.

Volunteers make a valuable contribution to the Australian community. The tasks they perform and the organisations to which they give their time are many and varied. From sports grounds to hospitals, volunteers enrich the social and welfare networks of Australia.

During 1994-95, an estimated 2.6 million people, 19% of people aged 15 years or over, undertook voluntary work through a group or organisation. These volunteers contributed about 430 million hours of their time to voluntary tasks. This was equivalent to about 3% of the time employed people spent in paid work over the same period (14.6 billion hours).

AGE AND SEX PROFILE OF VOLUNTEERS, 1994-95


Source: Voluntary Work, Australia (cat. no. 4441.0).


Who volunteers?
People of all ages worked as volunteers. Those aged 35-44 represented 28% of all volunteers. Overall, 57% of volunteers were women. In each age group women out-numbered men by a similar proportion.

In 1994-95, women aged 35-44 had the highest volunteer rate (31% of all women in that age group had performed voluntary work) followed by women aged 45-54 (24%). The highest volunteer rate for men also occurred in these two age groups (24% and 21% respectively). The high volunteer rate in the 35-44 age group corresponds to the ages when many adults have school-age children.

Married people (including de facto partners) had higher volunteer rates if they had dependent children. Partners with dependants had volunteer rates of 23% for men and 30% for women. Partners without dependants had volunteer rates of 17% for men and 19% for women. These differences reflect the involvement of parents, particularly mothers, in their children's activities.

VOLUNTEER RATES, 1994-95

Men
Women
Total
Characteristics
%
%
%

Age group (years)
    15-24
9.4
13.0
11.2
    25-34
13.6
19.0
16.3
    35-44
23.8
30.9
27.4
    45-54
21.0
24.0
22.5
    55-64
17.1
22.1
19.6
    65 or older
15.7
18.9
17.4
Family status
    Husband/wife/partner
20.1
24.4
22.3
      With dependents
23.1
29.9
26.4
      Without dependents
17.3
19.2
18.2
Total
16.7
21.3
19.0

Source: Voluntary Work, Australia (cat. no. 4441.0).


Differences over time
The 1995 survey of voluntary work was the first national survey of volunteers. Consequently, there are no earlier national figures on which to base comparison over time. However, comparable surveys have been held in some States. In 1982 surveys of volunteers were held in both Victoria and Queensland. The volunteer rates decreased markedly in both States between 1982 and 1994-95. In Queensland the rates for women decreased from 31% to 24% and those for men decreased from 26% to 18%. In Victoria similar declines were experienced. These declines may be related to the increased participation of women in paid employment, reducing the amount of time that both parents can devote to volunteer activities.

VOLUNTEER RATES, 1982 AND 1994-95

Men
Women
State
%
%

Qld
    1982
25.8
31.4
    1994-95
18.3
23.5
Vic.
    1982
26.9
29.5
    1994-95
17.6
22.2
Aust. 1994-95
16.7
21.3

Source: Provision of Welfare Service by Volunteers, Queensland (cat. no. 4401.3); Provision of Welfare Service by Volunteers, Victoria (cat. no. 4401.2); Voluntary Work, Australia (cat. no. 4441.0).


Regional differences
Overall, volunteer rates were higher outside of State capital cities than within them. In State capital cities, 14% of men and 18% of women volunteered. Outside of the cities, 21% of men and 27% of women volunteered.

Volunteer rates also varied considerably between State capital cities and the remaining areas of their respective States. Among State capital cities, Sydney had the lowest volunteer rate of 12%. This was followed by Melbourne and Perth at 16% and 17% respectively.

The volunteer rates among people in each State who did not live in the capital cities also varied but were generally higher than those of people who lived in capital cities. For people living outside capital cities the highest volunteer rates were among those living in South Australia (33%) and Western Australia (29%) while the lowest rates were in New South Wales and Queensland (both 21%).

The higher volunteer rates outside of capital cities may indicate that there is a difference in social and community life between country and city. There is some evidence that clubs and organisations play a more important role in rural life. A study of a small town in Victoria illustrates the importance of clubs and organisations to social and community life in a rural area1.

VOLUNTEER RATES, 1994-95

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

NSW
12.2
20.9
15.4
Vic.
16.4
29.1
20.0
Qld
20.6
21.3
20.9
SA
19.0
32.7
22.5
WA
16.7
28.8
19.9
Tas.
20.4
23.4
22.2
NT
n.a.
n.a.
23.4
ACT
n.a.
n.a.
26.1
Aust.(a)
16.2
24.0
19.0

(a) Capital city total includes the Australian Capital Territory and balance of State total includes the Northern Territory.

Source: Voluntary Work, Australia (cat. no. 4441.0).


Field of voluntary organisation
The fields in which volunteers worked were quite varied. However, the majority of volunteers were involved in sporting, recreational, educational, welfare or community fields. Male volunteers were most likely to carry out voluntary work in sporting and recreational fields (42%), and welfare and community fields (27%). Female volunteers were most likely to carry out voluntary work in welfare and community fields (32%), and educational and training fields (32%).

The field in which volunteers worked was also related to the age of the volunteer. In general, the volunteer rates for educational, sporting or recreational fields were highest among people aged 35-44. The highest rates for welfare, community and religious fields occurred among older people. The high rates for educational, sporting or recreational fields among middle-aged people no doubt reflects the involvement of parents in the activities in which their children are involved.

THE FIELD OF ORGANISATIONS VOLUNTEERS WORKED IN(a), 1994-95

Men
Women
Field of voluntary work
%
%

Welfare/community
27.0
31.8
Education/training/youth development
16.7
31.8
Sport/recreation/hobby
41.7
23.5
Religious
16.2
18.8
Health
4.4
8.8
Arts/culture
3.6
4.5
Environmental/animal welfare
4.4
3.2
Emergency services
8.5
2.1
Business/professional/union
4.9
2.0
Law/justice/political
2.2
1.3
Foreign/international
0.6
0.9

(a) Volunteers can work for more than one organisation.

Source: Voluntary Work, Australia (cat. no. 4441.0).

VOLUNTEER RATES FOR SELECTED FIELDS OF VOLUNTARY WORK, 1994-95



Source: Voluntary Work, Australia (cat. no. 4441.0).


Hours worked as a volunteer
While people aged 35-44 had the highest participation in voluntary work, they did not work the most hours. In general, the number of hours worked as a volunteer increased with the age of the volunteer. This correlates with the decrease in family and paid work commitments which come with increasing age.

The median hours spent performing voluntary work during the previous year by people who were employed full time was lower (72 hours for men and 64 hours for women) than the median for volunteers who were not in the labour force (96 hours for men and 88 hours for women).

Overall, there was considerable variation in the hours volunteers worked. 14% of volunteers performed 300 or more hours of voluntary work in the previous year, including a small proportion, 2%, who performed in excess of 1,000 hours. 19% of volunteers worked less than 20 hours of voluntary work during the previous year.

MEDIAN HOURS OF VOLUNTARY WORK PERFORMED DURING 1994-95



Source: Voluntary Work (unpublished data)
.

HOURS OF VOLUNTARY WORK PERFORMED DURING 1994-95

Men
Women
Total
Hours worked
%
%
%

Less than 20
19.8
17.4
18.5
20-39
14.7
14.4
14.6
40-79
17.1
19.4
18.4
80-139
16.0
16.8
16.5
140-299
17.6
17.8
17.8
300 or more
14.7
14.1
14.4
Total volunteers
100.0
100.0
100.0
hours
hours
hours
Median hours
74
75
75

Source: Voluntary Work, Australia (cat. no. 4441.0).


Reasons for becoming a volunteer
Most people carry out volunteer work for more than one reason. The reason most commonly given was to help other people or the community (stated by 42% of volunteers). 23% of volunteers stated they volunteered to do something worthwhile. Some of the reasons given indicated that volunteers anticipated personal gains such as a sense of satisfaction or social contact (27% and 16% of volunteers respectively). Another commonly given reason for volunteering was personal or family involvement (34% of volunteers). That is, they or a family member were previously involved with the organisation for which they then performed voluntary work.

MOST COMMON REASONS(a) FOR VOLUNTEERING, 1994-95



Source: Voluntary Work, Australia (cat. no. 4441.0).


Endnotes
1 Dempsey, K. 1992, A Man's Town: Inequality between Women and Men in Rural Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.


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