Social Cohesion Survey Shows Drop in Voluntary Work
29 September 2011 at 4:08 pm
The number of Australians giving their time as volunteers has fallen, according to a new survey on social cohesion.
The Scanlon Foundation Mapping Social Cohesion Report found that involvement in regular unpaid voluntary work has fallen by almost 10 per cent over two years.
In 2009, 38 per cent of more than 2000 respondents said they participated in voluntary work defined as “any unpaid help you give to the community in which you live, or to an organisation or group to which you belong” including a school, sporting club, the elderly, a religious group or recent arrivals in Australia.
This year only 31 per cent said they volunteered, down from 32 per cent in 2010.
The Foundation’s research program guides its national investment in projects, which promote diversity and social cohesion.
A majority of Australians (93 per cent) said they had a strong sense of belonging; 94 per cent take great pride in the Australians way of life and 92 per cent believe that maintaining it is important, which the report says are strong indicators of a cohesive society.
Attitudes to immigration, defined as central to Australia’s economic and social development, were more divisive with 39 per cent considering the intake too high while 55 per cent thought the intake was ‘about right’ or ‘too low’.
Respondents were positive about the humanitarian program for asylum seekers (73 per cent) but only 22 per cent considered asylum seekers arriving by boat should be eligible for permanent settlement, a slight increase since 2010 when 19 per cent shared the same view.
In an open-ended question about issues of national significance, immigration and asylum issues came in third at 14 per cent. The economy, unemployment and poverty were at the top of the list.
The report found that judgements concerning asylum seekers were in most cases based on inaccuracies. It said that less than one in four respondents know how many asylum seekers reach Australia by boat, while less than 11 per cent thought there had been a decline in immigration despite the fall in net migration over the last two years.
The survey showed a negative trend in confidence in the future and levels of trust and community involvement.
There was an increase in reports of discrimination from 9 per cent in 2009 up to 14 per cent this year.
Results also showed a loss of trust in government falling from a high of 48 per cent in 2009 to 30 per cent this year. Personal trust fell from 55 to 46 per cent in 2011. The report says the decline in confidence in the government was consistent with global trends.
The report says the findings point to an erosion of individual connectedness, weakening of community organisations and a low level of trust in government – all key indicators of threats to social cohesion.
The Monash Institute for the Study of Global Movements and the Australian Multicultural Foundation, with funding from the Scanlon Foundation, commissioned Monash Professor Andrew Markus to conduct the research.
The report is available at http://www.arts.monash.edu.au/mapping-population/