Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Information needs for volunteering data

Discussion Paper: Information needs for Volunteering data, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 7 April 2017


The most recent estimate of the value of voluntary work in Australia was estimated at $43 billion in 2006. In 2014, 5.8 million people (31% of Australian adults) participated in voluntary work, contributing 743 million hours to the community over the previous year. However, rates of formal volunteering in Australia dropped from 34% of adults in 2010. To understand why the rates of formal volunteering are changing, and the effect that further changes will have on our society and economy, we need your help.

Robust, reliable statistics for volunteering and giving are critical for ongoing policy and future planning for communities, as well as supporting Australia’s culture of volunteering and giving. Volunteering data can be used to capture the social contributions that Australians make to the nation, and explore how giving and volunteering can contribute to wellbeing. The data also helps governments understand potential pathways to employment and the effect of volunteering on the economy.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is seeking submissions to inform current and emerging needs for volunteering and giving data. Having consulted key federal agencies throughout 2016, we would like to understand other national, state and community data requirements. This consultation will support a review of the current methods and scope of collecting volunteering and giving data, and help the ABS prioritise content for future data collection.

The initial consultations identified a number of data requirements (summarised below). The ABS would like to know if there are other volunteering and giving data needs, activities, issues or elements that have not been addressed in this summary.

An information paper detailing the outcomes of this consultation will be published later in 2017.

What information is currently in ABS collections?

Various data on participation in voluntary work, the nature of the work undertaken, characteristics of volunteers and barriers to volunteering are collected in the ABS, through

  • the General Social Survey (GSS) (national prevalence rate)
  • the Census of Population and Housing (Census) and associated Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset (ACLD), and
  • the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC).

ABS data on whether people make charitable donations is available from the GSS, and the amount people donate is collected through the Household Expenditure Survey (HES).

A list of the range of data available from these collections is available (see Appendix 1: Volunteering data in ABS Collections).

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