4159.0 - General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2014 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 29/06/2015   
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This document was added or updated on 30/06/2015.

Voluntary work is recognised as a valuable part of life in Australia. It contributes to community participation and the building of social connections. In the General Social Survey (GSS), a volunteer was defined as someone who, in the previous 12 months, willingly gave unpaid help, in the form of time, service or skills, through an organisation or group.

In 2014, 5.8 million people or 31% of the Australian population aged 15 years and over, participated in voluntary work. Over a 12 month period, voluntary work contributed 743 million hours to the community (Tables 3 and 21).


Patterns of volunteering differed by state and territory, and also by part of state. Volunteering was more common among those living in parts of Australia outside the capital cities. The volunteer rate was 30% in the capital cities compared with 34% in areas comprising the rest of state or territory (Table 19).


Between the sexes, women were more likely to volunteer than men (34% compared with 29%) (Table 19).

Volunteering rates were high for people aged 15-17 years (42%), 35-44 years (39%) and 65-74 years (35%) (Table 19 and Graph 1).

Graph 1: Persons who volunteered in the last 12 months, Participation in voluntary work by age group
Graph Image for Participation in voluntary work, by age group

Source(s): Volunteering graph data GSS 2014

Couples with children (38%) were more likely to be involved in voluntary work than lone persons (25%) or couples with no children (29%). People employed part-time had a higher volunteer rate (38%) than those employed full-time (30%), or not in the labour force (retired 27% and other 30%) (Table 19).

Relationship with income and education

Volunteering increased with household income. People living in households in the lowest quintile of equivalised gross household income volunteered at a rate of 23% compared with 39% of people living in households with the highest quintile of equivalised gross household income (Table 19 and Graph 2).

Graph 2: Persons who volunteered in the last 12 months, Equivalised gross household income quintiles
Graph Image for Volunteering rate, by equivalised gross household income quintiles

Source(s): Volunteering graph data GSS 2014

The volunteering rate was lower for people who had not completed a non-school qualification (25%) compared with those who had. Among people who had completed a Bachelor degree or above, 41% had participated in voluntary work, while people whose highest non-school qualification was an Advanced diploma or below had a volunteering rate of 32% (Table 19).

Length of volunteering and reasons for volunteering

Once people start volunteering, they tend to keep doing it and their children quite often follow. Nearly half of volunteers had volunteered for more than 10 years. More than two-thirds of volunteers (70%) also reported that at least one of their parents had participated in voluntary work (Table 20).

The most common reason identified for being a volunteer was to help others or the community (64%), while more than half identified personal satisfaction (57%) or to do something worthwhile (54%). Personal or family involvement (45%), social contact (37%) and to be active (35%) were also reported as reasons for volunteering (Table 20).


Of those people who volunteered, almost two-thirds (63%) worked for one organisation only. Almost a quarter (24%) did voluntary work for two organisations and 14% volunteered for three or more organisations. The most common types of organisations for which people volunteered were those relating to sport and physical recreation (31% of volunteers), education and training (24%), welfare/community (21%) and religious groups (19%) (Table 20).

Hours volunteered

In 2014, half of volunteers contributed up to 50 hours of voluntary work. Almost one fifth (19%) reported volunteering 200 or more hours in the previous 12 months (Table 21).

The work a volunteer does for each particular organisation is referred to as a volunteering involvement. In 2014, there were 8.6 million volunteering involvements. On average, volunteers contributed 128 hours of voluntary work in the 12 months or an average of 86 hours per involvement (Table 21).

The types of organisation with the highest hours of involvement were sport and physical recreation (157.5 million hours), religious (147.6 million hours) and welfare/community (141.1 million hours) (Table 21 and Graph 3).

Graph 3: Volunteering involvements, Type of organisation by hours of involvement
Graph Image for Type(s) of organisation(s) did unpaid voluntary work for in last 12 months

Source(s): Volunteering graph data GSS 2014

Types of voluntary activities

Volunteers undertake a wide range of activities. In 2014, these activities included fundraising and sales (23% of volunteers spent most of their time on this activity), teaching/providing information (15%), coaching or refereeing (14%) and food preparation/serving (14%) (Table 20).

Costs and reimbursement

In 2014, about half of volunteers (53%) incurred expenses related to voluntary work. Most of these volunteers reported that reimbursements were not available (41% of all volunteers). The most common expenses were for travel costs (42%) and phone calls (32%) (Table 20).