Many people provide support to the wider community by voluntary work through organisations. In 2010, 6.1 million people aged 18 years and more (36% of the Australian population aged 18 years and over) had undertaken some form of voluntary work in the previous 12 months, up slightly from 34% in 2006. Volunteering was less common in capital cities (34%) than outside capital cities (41%).
The rate of volunteering is different between the sexes 34% of men doing volunteer work in 2010 compared to 38% of women.
The rate of volunteering also differed with age, life cycle, location and labour force status.
People in the middle age groups (355–44 years to 655–74 years) were more likely to volunteer than those in younger and older age groups. This broad pattern existed for both males and females. (See graph 1.5)
By life cycle
Parents in couple relationships and with dependent children aged 55–17 years had the highest rate of participation in voluntary work (55%). This may reflect their family commitments such as volunteering to support activities undertaken by their children, as well as the support that couple parents are often able to provide to each other to facilitate activities such as volunteering.
Volunteer rates were 41% outside capital cities compared with 34% for capital cities. There was no significant difference in rates between the capital cities, except for Darwin (43%), where the rate was higher than the overall capital city rate. (See graph 1.4)
Labour force status
Employed people, either in full-time (38%) or part-time work (44%), had a higher volunteer rate than those who were unemployed (20%) or not in the labour force (31%). Volunteer rates among those employed full-time were similar regardless of gender (39% of males, 37% of females). Women employed part-time (49%) had a higher rate of volunteering than women working full-time, and their participation was also higher than males employed part-time (32%).
For employed people, the volunteer rate varied considerably between occupational groups. Professionals and Managers had higher volunteer rates (51% and 47% respectively) than Machinery operators and drivers, Labourers, and Technicians and trades workers (26%, 28% and 32% respectively).
The types of groups that adults did unpaid volunteer work for also varied depending age (see graph 1.1). Younger age groups most commonly volunteered for groups related to sport and recreation. Volunteering for parenting groups is relatively common in the 255–34 and 355–44 year old groups while volunteering for welfare and community type groups is common in the older age groups.
1.1 Types of groups did unpaid volunteer work for, in the last 12 months, by age of volunteer
Parental and childhood volunteering
There is evidence that family and childhood experiences have some effect on the propensity to volunteer. 66% of volunteers reported that their parents had done some voluntary work compared to 44% of non-volunteers. 43% of adult volunteers had undertaken some voluntary work as a child compared to 27% of adult non-volunteers.
Volunteers were more likely to be involved in other aspects of community life than those who had not volunteered in the last 12 months.
Volunteers (82%) were much more likely than non-volunteers (55%) to have attended a community event in the last 6 months, and were almost three times more likely to have ever provided a service or activity in the local area (44% compared to 15%) (Table 7).
Trust and life satisfaction
Of people who volunteered, 62% either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed that most people could be trusted. In comparison less than half of non-volunteers (49%) agreed with that statement.
When asked about their overall life satisfaction, 82% of volunteers reported that they were delighted, pleased or mostly satisfied with their lives, compared to 75% of non-volunteers.
Informal assistance given to others
As well as volunteering through organisations there are informal ways of providing support to others in the community. Many people are involved in caring for other people. In 2010, 20% of adults had, in the previous four weeks, provided care to someone with a disability, long-term illness or problems associated with old age.
People also provide informal help to family members in other households, to friends, to neighbours and even to strangers needing assistance. In the previous four weeks, 49% of people aged 18 years and over had provided assistance to someone outside their own household.
People who volunteered through organisations were also more likely to be providing informal assistance to others. In 2010, 27% of volunteers were carers, compared with 17% of those who were not volunteers, and 64% of volunteers were providing informal help to someone outside their own household compared with 41% of non-volunteers. For both volunteers and non-volunteers, women were more likely than men to be carers or be providing informal help to someone they did not live with. Overwhelmingly, the informal assistance provided to others outside their own home was to family and friends although many neighbours and colleagues to whom help is given would be regarded as friends.
1.2 Active participation in groups in the last 12 months, by age
The most popular types of social participation that adults took part in were sport and recreation groups (35%), followed by social clubs providing restaurants or bars (20%) and religious or spiritual groups (18%). Sport and recreation groups were the most common form of community participation in the younger age groups, with participation in clubs and religious groups increasing in relative significance for older age groups.
1.3 Types of groups participated in, in the last 12 months, by age
1.4 Volunteer rate(a), Capital city/balance of state by state - 2010
1.5 Volunteer rate, Sex by age - 2010
1.6 Provision of assistance to others(a)(b), by volunteer status - 2010
Typical NSW Volunteer
Younger volunteers are involved in sport/ physical recreation. As they age they become more involved in parenting groups and community type groups. Welfare and community organisations are more common in the older age groups.