3414.0 - Guide to Migrant Statistical Sources, 2011 (Edition 2)  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 29/03/2011   
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Voluntary Work Survey (VWS)


The ABS has conducted three detailed surveys on the topic of voluntary work. The Voluntary Work Survey (VWS) was first conducted in June 1995 (as part of the Monthly Population Survey) and then repeated over four quarters in 2000 (as part of the Population Survey Monitor). In 2006, the VWS was conducted as a module of the General Social Survey. Much less detailed information regarding voluntary work was collected in the 2010 GSS, however, it is expected that the next GSS will include a detailed voluntary work module similar to that collected in 2006.

The main aims of the detailed survey are to collect data on rates of participation in voluntary work, characteristics of people who volunteer, the types of organisations they work for, and the activities they undertake. Not all of this information will be available from the 2010 GSS, with the data items expected to be:

  • Whether did unpaid voluntary work in last 12 months through an organisation
  • Type(s) of organisation did voluntary work for
  • Persons who volunteered for reasons other than work or study
  • Volunteers who did not work for the dole for all their organisations
  • Frequency of voluntary work for organisation(s)
  • Number of organisations volunteered for
  • Whether had any expenses related to voluntary work in last 12 months
  • Whether reimbursement for voluntary work expenses was available

The information collected is used to understand the extent and nature of volunteering in Australia and to assist with the planning of voluntary services and the development of volunteer recruitment and management programs. The results have also been used to determine a monetary value of voluntary work.

As well as information about voluntary work the GSS collects information on other aspects of community connection associated with the idea of social capital. These include data on various forms of social and civic participation, on social relationships and on the expectation of receiving support.

Results from the 2010 GSS are expected to be released in the second half of 2011.

Many of the data items collected are capable of being cross classified with Data Items Relevant to Migrants and Ethnicity.


  • Country of birth
  • Year of arrival
  • Age when first arrived in Australia
  • Main language other than English spoken at home
  • Proficiency in spoken English

In addition to the demographics listed above, the GSS collects information about the current residency status of non Australian-born people who arrived in the previous 21 years:
  • Australian citizenship status
  • Visa category
  • Whether a temporary resident before becoming a permanent resident
  • Whether main applicant on visa application

Other data items of relevance to migrants and ethnicity:
  • Geographical area of previous dwelling (if lived in current dwelling for less than 9 years)
  • Language difficulties when communicating with service providers
  • Proportion of friends of same ethnic background
  • Active involvement in social or support group in the last 12 months by type of organisation
  • Level of tolerance of different cultures (new data item in 2010)


A list of population characteristics and additional data items capable of being produced in customised tables is available from the General Social Survey: User Guide, Australia (cat. no. 4159.0.55.002). The user guide contains a separate file which lists all the GSS survey data items within a separate table.

For further details on scope, geographic coverage, data availability and publications, methodology, classifications, concepts and time series comparability of voluntary work data visit the explanatory notes given with Voluntary Work, Australia (cat. no. 4441.0). Further background to surveys conducted prior to 2006 is also available from the Voluntary Work Survey entry in the Directory of Statistical Sources.


For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service.

Phone: 1300 135 070
Fax: 1300 135 211
Post: Client Services, ABS, GPO Box 796, Sydney 2001
Email: client.services@abs.gov.au