SA Volunteers On The Rise
13 July 2005 at 1:07 pm
A survey of volunteering in South Australian Not for Profit organisations suggests the number of volunteers and the hours they give has risen in recent years contrary to anecdotal evidence suggesting otherwise.
Researchers fro the Australian Institute of Social research at the University of Adelaide says their study also does not affirm the ‘decline in social capital’ argued by commentators in the US and Australia that volunteerism is on the decline.
The survey of more than 300 organisations in April 2004 as well as separate interviews with volunteer coordinators indicates that volunteering in South Australian Not for Profit organisations increased steadily between 2001 and 2003.
The results have been published in the latest edition of the Australian Journal of Volunteering.
The survey found that the increase is in the number of people who join committees of management as well as for those who became general members of organisations.
While the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2000 found that SA had the highest voluntary participation of all states, the researchers said anecdotal evidence received by the SA Office for Volunteers suggested that the number of people participating in volunteer activities in South Australia is in decline.
American political scientist Robert Putnam in 2000 argued that social capital is declining in western industrial societies because of the impact of television and the time constricted modern lifestyles which discourage altruism.
Australian commentator, Barbara Pocock, in her examination of the work-life collision argues that a similar process has occurred in Australia.
Postdoctoral fellow Lou Wilson, Associate Professor John Spoehr, and research assistant Robyn McLean carried out the latest study survey.
Associate Professor John Spoehr, is the Executive Director of the Australian Institute for Social Research at the University of Adelaide. John is a public policy analyst who has published extensively in the areas of social justice, employment and workforce development. He is the editor of the books Beyond the Contract State, Power Politics and Don Dunstan: Politics and Passion, and is a regular columnist for the Adelaide Review.
Dr. Lou Wilson is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Adelaide. His research interests are in the areas of social capital, social inclusion and community services. He has publications on social capital and volunteering, labour market outcomes for young people and the transition of high school students from education to paid work. Lou also teaches social policy and research methods as a sessional tutor.
Robyn McLean is a research officer at the University of Adelaide. Robyn has worked with John and Lou on eleven projects and is a skilled quantitative and qualitative researcher, data analyst and desktop editor. Her interests include politics, community activism and volunteering.
The research team found that rather than the burden of volunteering being shouldered by those in the older age groups, it appeared that volunteers in the in the 35-65 year age groups are responsible for the increase in volunteering and the hours they put in South Australia.
Dr. Lou Wilson says increases in volunteerism appear to be partly related to the out sourcing of State and Commonwealth Government services to the Not for Profit sector which has increased the resources available to organisations and opportunities for volunteer participation.
They conclude that volunteering in South Australian organisations is increasing by about 3% per annum.
The researchers are also involved in a number of other studies measuring social capital and social inclusion in South Australia for release later this year.