4159.0.55.005 - Information Paper: Collection of Volunteering data in the ABS, March 2018  
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INTRODUCTION

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data on volunteering and unpaid work is available from three collections:

  • the General Social Survey (GSS),
  • the Census of Population and Housing (Census) and
  • the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC).

The national prevalence rate for volunteering, that is, the official number of volunteers in Australia, is collected in the GSS. This survey has been conducted every four years since 2002, and is designed to produce reliable national, state and territory estimates. A primary focus of the GSS is to contribute to our understanding of the multi-dimensional nature of relative advantage and disadvantage across the population, and the interplay of access and barriers to social participation. It provides this data by a range of demographics and personal, social and economic characteristics. The GSS has a large set of questions to collect characteristics of volunteers and volunteering, from who does it, to what they do, how often and when they do it, and what skills they use. Prior to the commencement of the GSS, data on volunteering rates and characteristics was collected in the Voluntary Work, Australia survey in 1995 and 2000. The most recent GSS was conducted in 2014.

While the Census gathers data from the whole population of Australia and is also available longitudinally from the Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset (ACLD), the information is self-reported in a single question on whether the person did any voluntary work for an organisation or group in the last 12 months, and as such is not as well-defined a measure as the GSS data. Census data is particularly useful for looking at small populations such as migrants or rural volunteers, or small areas, such as towns or shires.

Volunteering data in the SDAC is asked of people living in households who are aged 5 years or older with a disability or aged 65 years and over, and primary carers aged 15 years and over. Data is collected on whether they undertook voluntary or community service activities in the last three months, and whether they accessed the internet for volunteering or participating in community groups in the last three months. Employed people aged 15 years and over (living in households) are asked whether any of the work they do is unpaid voluntary work.

ABS data on giving is available in two surveys: whether people make charitable donations is asked in the GSS, and the amount people donate is collected in the Household Expenditure Survey (HES).