Giving Time

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Volunteer work is generally defined as unpaid work performed within

an organized setting to the benefit of other individuals, organizations, or

the society at large. Internationally theNetherlands shows up rather well,

when it comes to participation in volunteerwork. The Social andCultural

Planning Organisation (1998) presents data from 1981 and 1990, comparing

volunteer work in twelve countries. In both years the Netherlands

occupies afifth place. In 1990 it comes after the United States, Canada,

Sweden,andNorway.Comparedwith otherEuropean countries thenumber

of people participating in volunteer work on a regular basis (and not

merely incidentally) is relatively high in the Netherlands, in particular in

the domains of culture, recreation, and education.

table 6.1. VolunteerWork in Several Domains for Persons Aged Eighteen and

Older, 1977–1995 (weighed outcomes in %)

1977 1980 1983 1986 1989 1992 1995

Political and ideological aims 4 5 5 5 5 5 7

Occupational, professional, labor

organizations 4 6 4 4 4 4 4

Religion, theology 7 11 9 9 10 9 11

Culture, sports, hobbies 17 29 25 25 25 23 27

Education, child nursing, youth work 10 13 15 15 14 13 18

Women 4 6 5 5 4 4 3

Assistance (e.g., advice, information) 4 7 3 2 2 2 4

Help to neighbors, aged, or disabled 11 9 13 11 13 12 14

Number of activities

None 67 55 59 59 59 61 54

One 23 28 26 25 26 26 28

More than one 10 17 13 11 13 12 14

Source: SCP-Report (1998).

The substantially increased percentage of Dutch citizens as donating

members of some organization during the past fifteen years is largely due

to their participation in volunteer work. Recreation attracts the largest

number of volunteers, but education (parental aid to schools), child nursing,

and youth work are also popular. Moreover, since 1977 more time

is spent on work with ideological aims. The data, derived from national

surveys, are summarized in Table 6.1.

Who are the ones spending their free time to volunteerwork? Are there

any changes in thenumberand profile of volunteers during the past fifteen

years? About as many people volunteered in 1980 a s in 1995, a s Ta ble 6.2

shows. About one-third of the Dutch adult population performs some

sort of volunteer work. The participation of the younger age group has

clearly decreased and constitutes the least active category nowadays, while

the participation level of the population aged thirty-five and older has

grown. The impact of education has become less: in 1980 the more highly

table 6.2. Participation in VolunteerWork according to the Time-Allocation

Diary by Sex, Age, Education, and Population Category, 1980 and 1995

Hours by % of Leisure Time

% of Participants Participants by Participants

1980 1995 1980 1995 1980 1995

All 33 32 4.3 4.9 8.4 8.9

Men 36 31 4.6 6.0 8.9 11.2

Women 29 33 4.0 4.0 7.9 8.0

18–34 years 30 22 4.3 4.5 9.1 9.1

35–54 years 37 39 3.8 5.0 7.9 10.4

55–74 years 33 36 5.2 5.3 8.5 8.5

Lower education 28 27 4.0 4.7 7.3 8.8

Middle education 38 34 4.3 5.3 8.3 10.0

Higher education 47 36 4.9 4.4 10.0 9.0

Four big cities 28 26 4.7 5.1 8.7 9.6

Other 100,000+ cities 34 31 4.7 5.2 8.5 10.4

Rest of the Netherlands 33 33 4.2 4.8 8.3 9.3

(n) (2,354) (2,918) (768) (933) (768) (933)

Source: SCP-Report (1998).

educated formed the most active category, but this is no longer the case in

1995. An interesting gender difference shows up: while men’s participation

in volunteer work has dropped in 1995 compared with that in 1980,

the percentage of participatingwomen has increased. Interestingly, in the

same period women’s labor participation has also increased substantially

in the Netherlands: in 1980 not even one-third of the female population

available to the labor market had a paid job, whereas in 1994 this proportion

has risen to about half of this population. Although almost half

of these are part-time jobs, the total amount of hours women spend in

paid work has strongly increased in this period: from 7.2 to 14.6 hours

per week. It is therefore striking that women’s participation in volunteer

work has also increased, particularly the housewives’ participation,

among whom 41% performs some volunteer work in 1995 against 30%

in 1980. Compared with students, people with or without paid jobs, and

retired people, housewives are the most active participants in volunteer

work.

Other research (van Daal 1994) offers some more detailed information

about the profile of the volunteer. The traditional gender differences show

up in the nature of the volunteer work involved, with women spending

more time with the sick, elderly, and disabled, with children, and in activities

related to school, whereas men spend more of their free time in

sports, trade unions, and political organizations. Religious people are,

in addition to their work for the church, more active in providing assistance,

whereas the more highly educated are relatively well represented in

managing functions. What motivates people to spend time in volunteer

work? It does not come as a surprise that civic virtues inspired by a concern

with all kinds of social issues, humanitarian involvement, and social

responsibility are often mentioned as motives. But people also report

more instrumental considerations like diversion, seeking social contacts,

and entertainment (Willems 1994).

In short, changes in volunteerwork over the years do not somuch concern

the number of people involved because this remains almost constant;

rather, it is the profile of the volunteer and the nature of volunteering

activities that have undergone changes.