New data suggests that voluntary work has been impacted harder by the COVID-19 recession than paid work. Compelling new research from Volunteering Australia and the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods shows a much greater decrease in the proportion of Australians who undertook volunteering than the decline in the proportion of Australians in paid work.
- An estimated 2.3 million less Australians volunteered in April 2021 than in late 2019.
- The total number of hours of volunteering is estimated to have fallen by around 293 million hours over a 12-month period since COVID. This implies that the loss in economic output due to the pandemic would be 16.1 per cent higher if volunteering was included, compared to considering paid work only.
Volunteering Australia has been working in partnership with the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods (CSRM) to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on volunteering. The new ANU CSRM analysis, published 20 May, explores volunteering using comparative data collected in late 2019 prior to COVID-19, data from April 2020 and data from April 2021.
Volunteering Australia CEO Mark Pearce said, “This research provides important evidence of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 situation on volunteers and volunteering. The findings reinforce the importance of volunteering to the economic and social wellbeing of Australia and has several implications for policy and practice. Given the weak recovery in volunteering to date, there remains an important challenge ahead in reinvigorating volunteering. This will require further and sustained action by the volunteering sector and by governments.”
The research also explored the impact on life satisfaction and loneliness. The data showed that volunteers had a higher level of life satisfaction prior to COVID-19 than non-volunteers. The impact of COVID-19 on life satisfaction and loneliness was affected by volunteering behaviour over the period, with those who managed to continue volunteering during COVID-19 faring much better than those who didn’t.