Volunteering decline?

The UK’s Office of National Statistics has recently released figures that show a worrying trend in the amount of time that volunteers give to their communities. Measuring formal volunteering, that is work contributed via groups, clubs or organizations, the figures show a decline of 7% in the amount of time given between 2012 and 2015 as part of an ongoing decline in overall volunteering time since 2005. This pattern is not, however, evenly spread across age groups. In the younger age group, of 16 to 24 year olds, time spent volunteering has gone up, while the time given by 25 to 34 year olds has gone down. The figures hide a complex back story combining a challenging labour market, constrained public spending, transformations of higher education, changing family structures and a proliferation of initiatives aimed at promoting volunteering and providing new digital infrastructures. Clearly these factors hit different demographic groups in different ways and what drives some towards volunteering may drive others away, at the same time as volunteer work is as sorely needed as ever. Delving into individual stories and tracking cohorts over time may give some clearer insights into what is going on.

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