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A shake up at the top


21 June 2021 at 5:23 pm
Nikki Stefanoff
Australia and New Zealand remain the only Western countries in the top 10 most generous countries in the world


Nikki Stefanoff | 21 June 2021 at 5:23 pm


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A shake up at the top
21 June 2021 at 5:23 pm

Australia and New Zealand remain the only Western countries in the top 10 most generous countries in the world

Against 2020’s backdrop of lockdowns and restrictions, the top 10 most generous countries changed substantially last year, with the majority of Western countries falling down the rankings. 

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), which has been producing its World Giving Index (WGI) for over a decade, has published its first report in the wake of the global health crisis. 

Referred to as a “pandemic special” this year’s report is the 10th edition of the WGI and encompasses 10 years of interviewing – amounting to around 1.3 million global interviews. The result being one of the biggest surveys into giving ever produced. 

Three questions lie at the heart of the report: 

  • Have you helped a stranger or someone you didn’t know who needed help? 
  • Have you donated money to a charity? 
  • Have you volunteered your time to an organisation? 

The WGI then averages out the responses giving each country a percentage score. 

Australia and New Zealand remain in the top 10

Indonesia ranked as the most generous country in the world with an overall giving score of 69 per cent, up from 59 per cent in 2018, which was the last year the WGI was produced.

Many of the countries consistently featured in the top 10 have fallen down the rankings. America (which dropped from the top five to 19th place), the UK, Canada, Ireland and the Netherlands have all seen a significant decrease in their index scores. In their place are several countries new to the top 10 — Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Kosovo. 

Like most of the Western world, Australia and New Zealand both saw a decline in their scores and their place in the index. However, both remain in this year’s top 10 — Australia fifth and New Zealand seventh. 

They are the only high-income countries to remain in the top 10. 

Japan scored the lowest of all the countries with an index of 12. 

“Japan has historically had an unusually limited civil society for an advanced industrialised nation — the rules around charitable giving are complex, expectations of state provisions are high and organised nonprofits are a relatively new phenomenon,” the report said.

As with the top 10 most generous countries, the bottom 10 appear on the surface to have little in common. Some are struggling with poverty and unrest (Lebanon) whereas others are more likely to be low down on the list for cultural reasons (France, Italy and Portugal) 

The pandemic and future reports 

The report states that the resilience of giving in both Australia and New Zealand likely represents the timing of the survey, which was undertaken in the weeks before the peak of the first wave of the pandemic. 

Additionally, there was a widespread and generous response to the Australian bushfires in early 2020. 

The report is quick to point out that surveys in some countries took place between February and May 2020, just as lockdowns and the pandemic unfolded, which may have had an impact on the results. 

“In future reports, we will watch to see whether there will be a return to a more traditional top 10 — the pandemic may provide the world’s wealthier nations with an impetus to reverse past trends that showed a decline in giving,” the report said. 

Giving to strangers and the philosophy of ubuntu

The report also found that, globally, nearly a fifth of all adults volunteer, more than three in 10 adults around the world donated money to charity in 2020 and more people reported that they helped a stranger in 2020 than ever before. 

In his foreword to the report, Neil Heslop, chief executive of CAF, said that this number was unprecedented. 

“The number of people who reported helping a stranger stands at a staggering 55 per cent, the highest figure we have recorded in our annual survey and one that speaks to the wave of genuine concern for our neighbours that so many of us witnessed in our day to day lives,” he said.

Six of the 10 countries where people are most likely to help a stranger are located in Africa, which the report said was likely a result of “ubuntu”,  which exists across almost all of Africa. 

“Ubuntu can be described as the capacity in an African culture to express compassion, reciprocity, dignity, humanity and mutuality in the interests of building and maintaining communities with justice and mutual caring,” the report said. 

A full copy of the report is available here


Nikki Stefanoff  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Nikki Stefanoff is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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