4125.0 - Gender Indicators, Australia, Jul 2011  
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VOLUNTEERING RATE (a)(b)(c),18 years and over




(a) Males and females who volunteered as a proportion (%) of total population aged 18 years and over for each sex (volunteers/ non-volunteers combined).
(b) In 2000, voluntary work excluded 'work for the dole' as it did not qualify as voluntary work that was 'willingly undertaken'. In 2006, this exclusion criterion expanded to exclude: those engaging in work experience, or as part of an unpaid work trial; those serving a community service order; those engaged in a student placement; and those engaging in emergency work during an industrial dispute. This methodological change has only had a very minor impact on the comparability between 2000 and 2006 data.
(c) Excludes people whose only voluntary work was done in relation to the 2000 Sydney Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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



Women volunteer more commonly than men. In 2006, 36% of women aged 18 years and over were volunteers compared to 32% of men.

Volunteers make a valuable contribution to society in both economic and social terms. Volunteers provide services which would otherwise have to be paid for or left undone, allowing organisations to allocate their often limited finances elsewhere. The value of the work contributed by volunteers to non-profit institutions in 2006-07 was estimated to be $14.6 billion. (Endnote 1)

Willingly giving time to do work for an organisation or community group on an unpaid basis can be rewarding for individuals, and it can extend and enhance their social networks. For example, volunteering may be the basis of relationships between community members who do not normally associate with one another. (Endnote 2)

In 2006, 5.2 million people, or 34% of the Australian population aged 18 years and over, participated in voluntary work in the 12 months prior to the survey. They contributed 713 million hours to the community undertaking many different activities, and in organisations and groups with a diverse range of interests. (Endnote 3)

Volunteering by age

The pattern of volunteering varied with age. In 2006, there were higher proportions of females than males across all age groups who volunteered, except in the 85 years and over age group. Of all adult females, those aged 35-44 years were more likely to volunteer (48%) compared to females in other age groups. This age group of females includes a large number of mothers with dependent children, and so the volunteering rate of this group partly reflects their family commitments. (Endnote 3)

Males in the age group of 45-54 years were more likely than other males to volunteer (39%). There was no difference in the proportion of males and females volunteering in this age group. Of all males aged 85 years and over, 26% volunteered, while for females in this age group it was 8%. However, the age structure for males over 85 years of age is likely to be very much younger, on average, than for females, and the difference in volunteering rates most likely reflects age differences.

Line graph: volunteering rate by age 2006

Volunteering by labour force status

Employed males and females had a higher volunteering rate than those who were unemployed or not in labour force. Males employed full-time were as likely to volunteer (34%) as females employed on the same basis (33%). Of those employed part-time, higher proportions of females (47%) were doing voluntary work than males employed part-time (35%). Overall, there was a higher proportion of females who worked part-time, and among them there was a higher proportion who were doing voluntary work, indicating that many may have chosen part-time participation in the labour force to make other activities possible. (Endnote 3)

Of unemployed males, 19% volunteered, which was almost half of the proportion of unemployed females who volunteered (35%). In addition, a higher proportion of females not in the labour force volunteered (32%) than did males (26%).

Column graph: volunteering rate by labour force status 2006

Type of volunteering activity

Volunteers perform a range of different activities when undertaking voluntary work. Both male and female volunteers reported fundraising/sales most frequently as part of their voluntary work (51% of males and 58% of females).

Some of the activities undertaken by male and female volunteers fitted traditional stereotypes. For example, female volunteers reported 'preparing and serving food' as a volunteering activity more frequently (48%) than did males (28%), whereas males were more likely to be involved in 'repairing/maintenance/gardening' activities (38%) than were females (14%). Males were also likely to be more involved in coaching/refereeing/judging as a volunteering activity (35%) than were females (17%).


1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009, Australian National Accounts: Non-Profit Institutions Satellite Account, 2006-07, (cat. no. 5256.0) <www.abs.gov.au>.
2. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008, Australian Social Trends, Sep 2008, (cat. no. 4102.0) <www.abs.gov.au>.
3. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2007, Voluntary Work, Australia, 2006, (cat. no. 4441.0) <www.abs.gov.au>.


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