Who are Australia’s volunteers?

Glenn - The Census Expert

Glenn is an ABS data expert with huge intellect and capacity to convert demographic data into profound insights about places. He has contributed numerous blogs and consulting projects covering economic development, housing consumption and affordability, migration, fertility, ageing, role and function of ‘place’, communities of interest and more. Glenn works with over 120 councils bringing the client perspective into the development of our information products. He is a Census data expert, having worked at the Australian Bureau of Statistics for 10 years. If there's anything Glenn doesn't know about the Census, it's probably not worth knowing - so ask Glenn!

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2 Responses

  1. Simone says:

    The 2006 Census data for Victoria showed there was a strong relationship between rates of volunteering and age, but there is also a spatial dimension.

    Volunteering rates drop away significantly after the age of 80 and this is likely to be linked to health and disability (not sure about including the 100+ age cohort on your graph Glenn!). I’ve seen data from the CFA that shows the age profile of their volunteers, and there is a definite drop after about the age of 65. This is hardly surprising given that a number of roles in this organisation would be physically demanding.

    People in regional Victoria also display higher propensities to volunteer than in Melbourne. In some cases this might be related to the need to provide services that would not otherwise be provided, particularly in small towns and rural areas. Or it just might mean that country people are more willing to donate their spare time!

    I think it’s a shame that the Census question on volunteering is so broad – it would be nice to see some industry or time (eg hours per week) data associated with this to build up a more solid picture of the volunteering industry.

    • Steve says:

      The voluntary work question on the Census is only one source of data on this topic produced by the ABS.

      Although the rates of volunteering reported in the Census are lower than those observed using a structured interview approach (such as that used in the General Social Survey – see below), the Census allows small area analysis not possible from sample surveys, enabling the personal characteristics of volunteers and rates of volunteering to be compared between communities in local areas.

      The ABS conducts, on a four-yearly basis, the General Social Survey (GSS). This survey is a key source of information on rates of participation in voluntary work across the Australian population. In the shorter question module included in 2010, information was collected on the number and type of organisations for which people volunteered, which can be cross-classified by the range of personal and household characteristics also collected in the survey. Data from the 2010 GSS will be released in September 2011. An extended voluntary work question module was asked in 2006 (and is expected to be again in 2014), which included information on hours of formal voluntary work, activities undertaken, and other characteristics of volunteers and the organisations they volunteer for. See ABS cat. 4441.0.

      Information on time spent doing voluntary work is also collected in the Time Use Survey (TUS), which uses a diary approach to collect information on time use from respondents. The TUS was last conducted in 2006, but will again be conducted in 2013. Information from the TUS can be used to examine how people allocate time between paid work, voluntary work and other unpaid work and leisure.

      2011 is the International Year of Volunteering + 10, and the 2011 Census provides an opportunity for all volunteers in Australia to affirm their role, and for society to acknowledge and applaud it.

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