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Religious affiliation and activity
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION OF AUSTRALIANS OF ALL AGES
AFFILIATION OF AUSTRALIANS OF ALL AGES TO MAJOR NON-CHRISTIAN RELIGIONS
Showing a similar pattern of stability followed by change, the distribution of affiliation across religions and Christian denominations remained relatively stable during the 1930s and early 1940s, but began to change considerably following the end of the second world war. In particular, migration from continental Europe gradually increased the proportion of all Australians affiliating with Catholicism. More recently, immigration from Asia and the Middle East helped increase the proportion of all Australians affiliating with a non-Christian religion.
Between 1971 and 2001, the proportion of all Australians affiliating with Christianity fell from 86% to 68%, while those affiliating with a non-Christian religion increased from 1% to 5%. Some non-Christian religions grew more rapidly than others over this period. Whereas the number of Australians of all ages affiliating with Judaism increased modestly between 1971 and 2001, affiliation with Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism increased more markedly.
FACTORS INFLUENCING CHANGE
Growth in the numbers and proportions of Australians of all ages affiliating with Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism are largely due to changes in the countries of origin of recent immigrants (see Australian Social Trends 2001, Coming to Australia, pp.16-20). Of all people affiliating with Hinduism in 2001, 82% had been born overseas, with 34% born in India and 11% in Sri Lanka. Similarly, nearly three-quarters of all those affiliating with Buddhism had been born overseas - 26% in Viet Nam and 8% in China. Of Australians of all ages affiliating with Islam in 2001, 62% were overseas born, with almost 11% born in Lebanon and 9% in Turkey.
Partnering and parenting patterns are also likely to have contributed to the increase in affiliation to Islam in Australia between 1971 (22,300) and 2001 (281,600). Based on ABS 2001 Census data, recently arrived overseas born Muslims were slightly younger when they migrated to Australia than were other immigrants, and Australian Muslims in general marry at a relatively young age and have a relatively high fertility rate.(SEE ENDNOTE 1)
There was a clear increase in an affiliation to Buddhism, particularly between 1996 (199,800) and 2001 (357,800). This may be due in part to the globalisation of religious ideas and practices.(SEE ENDNOTE 2)
In 2001, 74% of Australian adults (i.e. aged 18 years or over) affiliated with a religion, and 70% affiliated with Christianity. However, these rates of affiliation varied between men and women, and between age groups. Women were more likely to affiliate with a religion (and with Christianity) than were men of the same age group, although with increased age both men and women were more likely to affiliate with a religion (and with Christianity).
Among young adults aged 18-24 years, 69% of women affiliated with a religion (62% with Christianity) compared with 65% of men (59% with Christianity). Affiliation rates among older Australians aged 65 years and over were all higher than this. Of older women, 86% affiliated with a religion (84% with Christianity), while 82% of older men affiliated with a religion (80% with Christianity). This increase with age may be due partly to personal change associated with growing older, and partly to generational change.(SEE ENDNOTE 3)
AGE/SEX AFFILIATION RATES - 2001
Also in 2001, 68% of males aged less than 18 years were reported as affiliating with a religion (62% with Christianity). Rates were only slightly higher among females aged less than 18 years, of whom 69% were reported to affiliate with a religion and 63% with Christianity.
PARTICIPATION IN RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES
According to the ABS 2002 General Social Survey, 23% of Australian adults participated in church or religious activities during the three months prior to interview. In keeping with being more likely to affiliate with a religion, women (26%) were more likely than men (20%) to have participated in church or religious activities. This pattern was evident among all age groups.
As with religious affiliation, participation in church or religious activities tended to increase with age. Among 18-24 year olds, 23% of women and 16% of men had participated in church or religious activities. Rates for people aged 65 years and over were higher at 29% for women and 24% for men.
Some religions encourage adherents to be charitable to those in need. Thus, having a particular religious affiliation may predispose a person to do unpaid voluntary work. In 2000, while 18% of volunteers cited a desire for social contact as a reason for volunteering, 12% of volunteers were motivated to volunteer by religious belief.(SEE ENDNOTE 4)
Of the 23% of Australian adults who had participated in church or religious activities within the three months prior to interview in 2002, just over a half (52%) had also done unpaid voluntary work for an organisation within the previous 12 months. In comparison, less than a third (29%) of adults who had not participated in church or religious activities had done such voluntary work.
There was a clear difference in the likelihood of having done unpaid voluntary work for a religious organisation between adults who had participated in church or religious activities and those who had not. Of those who had participated in church or religious activities, 30% had also done some unpaid voluntary work for a religious organisation within the 12 months prior to interview, compared with just 1% of those who had not participated in church or religious activities.
RATE OF PARTICIPATION IN CHURCH OR RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES AND UNPAID VOLUNTARY WORK FOR A RELIGIOUS ORGANISATION - 2002
Overall, older people were more likely than younger people, and women more likely than men, to have done unpaid work for a religious organisation. However, differences between age groups and the sexes were small.
UNPAID VOLUNTARY WORK, BY RELIGIOUS PARTICIPATION OF WORKER - 2002
In addition to religious organisations, there are many other types of organisations for which people volunteer to perform unpaid work (see Australian Social Trends 2002, Voluntary work, pp. 146-150). In 2002, adults who had participated in church or religious activities within the three months prior to interview were more likely to have volunteered for a welfare or community organisation (18% compared with 9% of those who had not participated in church or religious activities), and for an organisation concerned with education, training or youth development (12% compared with 7%). However, there was little difference between the rates of volunteering for an emergency services organisation (both 2%), an environmental or animal welfare organisation (also both 2%), a law, justice or political organisation (both 1%), and a foreign or international organisation in Australia (again both 1%).
1 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2001, Births, Australia, 2000, cat. no. 3301.0, ABS, Canberra.
2 Bouma, G, 'Globalization and recent changes in the demography of Australian religious groups: 1947 to 2001', People and Place, vol. 10, no. 4, 2002, pp. 17-23.
3 Bouma, G and Hughes, P, 'Religion and age in Australia' in People and Place, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1998, pp. 18-25.
4 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2001, Voluntary Work, Australia, 2000, cat. no. 4441.0, ABS, Canberra.
5 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1998, Time Use Survey, Australia - Users’ Guide, 1997, cat. no. 4150.0, ABS, Canberra.
6 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1998, How Australians Use Their Time, 1997, cat. no. 4153.0, ABS, Canberra.