Voluntary Work (Survey of)

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    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)


    The first Survey of Voluntary Work was conducted throughout Australia in June 1995. The Australian community relies heavily on volunteers to deliver services. However, until the Survey of Voluntary Work was conducted, the extent of volunteer involvement in the total Australian community had been unmeasured. The information collected in the l Survey of Voluntary Work provides the first true national picture of the types of and amount of voluntary work done in the community through groups or organisations. It provided information on who volunteers, where they work and the amount of time contributed in volunteering. Information about the volunteers, their characteristics as well as their perceptions of the experience of volunteering was also collected.


    The major uses for the data will be to:

    • ascertain the number of people engaged in formal voluntary activities and the hours worked
    • provide information on the organisational settings in which voluntary activities take place
    • identify the types of voluntary activities carried out within different organisation
    • provide information about the socio-demographic characteristics of those who volunteer
    • provide information on the perceived benefits of volunteering and the opinions of volunteers on various aspects of their volunteering experience.

    The information will be used to assist in the planning of voluntary services and in the development of volunteer recruitment and management programs. The results will also be used to quantify the number of people and the time spent in voluntary work and to determine a monetary value of voluntary work. Principal users of the information will be the State and Territory Volunteer Centres, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the Australian Institute of Sport, the Commonwealth Department of Employment, Education and Training and State and Territory Departments of Employment, Sport, Environment, Emergency and Community Services as well as research organisations.


    All usual residents in private households are included in the PSM. The survey covers rural and urban areas across all States and Territories of Australia, except sparsely settled and Indigenous areas, which accounts for approximately 85,000 persons aged 18 years and over. The exclusion of these persons will have only a minor impact on any aggregate estimates that are produced for individual States and Territories, with the exception of the Northern Territory where such persons account for approximately 19% of the population. All persons living in non-private dwellings are excluded.

    The scope of the collection includes all persons resident in Australia and aged 18 and over except:

    • certain diplomatic personnel of overseas governments customarily excluded from census and estimated populations,
    • overseas residents in Australian and members of non Australian defence forces (and their dependants) stationed in Australia,
    • special dwellings,
    • persons in remote and sparsely settled strata

    Members of the permanent defence forces are in on scope.

    In the PSM, coverage rules are applied which aim to ensure that each person is associated with only one dwelling, and hence has only one chance of selection. The chance of a person being enumerated at two separate dwellings in the one survey is considered to be negligible

    All usual residents are included even if away from the dwelling for six weeks or more.


    Conceptual framework

    The collection was conducted using the Population Survey Monitor (PSM) over four quarters, February, May, September and November. It uses all concepts available in the Labour Force Survey.

    A Volunteer was defined as someone who willingly gives unpaid help, in the form of time, service or skills, through an organisation or group. An organisation or group is any body with a formal structure. It may be as large as a national charity or as small as a local book club. Purely ad hoc, informal and temporary gatherings of people do not constitute an organisation.

    For the scope of the survey Voluntary Work included:

    • work for political parties or trade unions
    • attendance at meetings where decisions are made, even if the person is not an office holder
    • unpaid work which is recognised as voluntary work for an organisation for which the volunteer is also a paid employee
    • attendance at self-help group meetings which provide mutual support to members
    • unpaid work carried out as part of a labour market program

    The following were excluded from the scope of the survey:

    • voluntary work done overseas
    • bartering systems, babysitting coops
    • unpaid work for a family business
    • donating money, goods or blood
    • time spent training for a volunteer position, or as a prerequisite for voluntarty work
    • belonging to an organisation, but not doing voluntary work for it
    • attending church, fundraising functions or school concerts, unless some unpaid work,(ed taking up a collection, selling tickets or food) is involved
    • unpaid work done for one's own employer, in the form of taking work home or doing unpaid overtime, which is required or expected of the employee as part of their paid employment, or which the employee chooses to do out of a sense of obligation
    • unpaid work completed as a compulsory requirement of either a formal education course, such as practice teaching by trainee teachers or a community service order
    • 'work for the dole'
    • travel time to and from the location of voluntary work
    • time spent 'on call' (eg a volunteer for the bush fire brigade who is on call if there is a likelihood of fire)

    To retain comparability with past and future surveys, voluntary work for the Olympic Games was excluded from the estimates.

    Main outputs

    Publication : Voluntary Work, Australia

    (ABS Cat No. 4441.0)


    Persons aged 18 years and over who had undertaken voluntary work in the 12 months up to November 2000.

    Major Populations

    All persons
    Persons aged 18 years and over who volunteered formally in the last 12 months

    Information collected in the survey includes:

    Number of volunteers

    Number of organisations volunteered for

    Whether would have liked more training

    Type of training required

    Expenses incurred

    Whether reimbursement available for expenses incurred

    Concerns about aspects of voluntary work

    How long ago first volunteered

    Reasons for becoming a volunteer

    How first became involved in volunteering

    Benefits gained through volunteering

    For each organisation a volunteer worked for:

    Organisational group

    Length of time spent volunteering for organisation


    Hours of voluntary work

    For Welfare/community and Health organisations:

    Groups assisted by organisation

    Data can be classified by other variables including:



    Marital status

    Relationship in household


    States and Territories

    Labour force status

    Status in employment



    Main language spoken at home

    Educational attainment

    Field of study


    ABS standard classifications were used for items describing standard demographic, socio-economic, education, labour force, housing, etc characteristics.

    Industry - Australia and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) edition 1 - 1 digit level

    Occupation - Australian Standard Classification of Occupations First Edition (ASCO FE) from August 1993,
    Australian Standard Classification of Occupations Second Edition (ASCO SE) from February 1997

    Age - 5 year age groups


    Marital status


    Highest education level completed

    Household income decile

    Personal income decile

    Employment status

    Labour force status

    Household / family classification

    Dwelling structure

    Nature of occupancy


    Metropolitan / ex-metropolitan split

    Other concepts (summary)

    Not applicable

    New South Wales
    South Australia
    Western Australia
    Northern Territory
    Part of State Metropolitan
    Part of State Extra-Metropolitan

    Comments and/or Other Regions

    Excludes sparsely settled areas

    5 Yearly

    Frequency comments

    A survey was run in 1995 as a supplementary survey to the Monthly Population Survey, and another on the Population Survey Monitor through 4 quarters of 2000. There is likely to be a four or five year interval to the next Voluntary Work Survey .


    The Survey of Voluntary Work was first conducted throughout Australia in June 1995. Voluntary Work 2000 was conducted in the months of February, May, August and November 2000. The survey sample size was 3,000, totalling 12,000 for the whole year.


    Data availability comments

    Voluntary Work, Australia (ABS Cat No. 4441.0) was released in June 2001. A standard set of comparable state and territory tables is available, released in September 2001. A Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF) is due for release in April 2002. Special tabulations are available for purchase on request.

    05/06/2002 04:31 PM