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Direct vs. Organization-based volunteering

A second conclusion that emerges from the estimates we have developed underlines the enormous scale of the portion of volunteering that has been overlooked in measures that focus exclusively on organization-based volunteering. As Table 2.3 shows, organization-based volunteering actually represents only about one-fourth of the global full-time equivalent workforce. Compared to the approximately 35 million full-time equivalent workers that organization-based volunteering brings to the work of dealing with global social, economic, psychological, and other problems and of contributing to the general quality of life, direct volunteering brings a workforce that is nearly three times larger—92 million full-time equivalent workers strong!

Table 2.3 Global estimate of FTE volunteer workers (millions)

Type

Number (millions)

Percent

Organization-based

34.7

27%

Direct

91.5

73%

Total

126.2

100%

Closing the North-south volunteering gap?

The third important conclusion flowing from our data addresses the central question with which we began this paper: is it the case that once direct volunteering is brought into solid empirical view, the North-South volunteering gap visible in some prior research narrows significantly?

The answer emerging from our data on this question is somewhat ambiguous. On the one hand, it is the case that once a decent estimate of direct volunteering is available, it does appear that the volunteering gap between middle- and upper-income countries, on the one hand, and lower-middle and lower-income countries on the other, does narrow, at least when measured in terms of absolute numbers of FTE volunteers of both types. This is evident in Table 2.4, which records the number of organization-based and direct FTE volunteer workers in countries grouped by their level of per capita income.[1] As this table reveals, the number of full-time equivalent volunteer workers that low-income and lower-middle income countries field to deal

The Global FTE Volunteer Workforce vs. the total EAP of the seven largest countries

Fig. 2.1 The Global FTE Volunteer Workforce vs. the total EAP of the seven largest countries

Table 2.4 Global estimates of volunteer work, by region, by type of volunteer work

Country

groupings

Number of FTE volunteers by type of volunteering (millions)

Volunteer workers as share of total EAP

Income level

Org Based

Direct

Total

Org based (%)

Total (%)

Low

7.9

18.6

26.5

0.8

2.8

Lower middle

9.0

25.6

34.6

0.7

2.8

Upper middle

3.6

18.5

22.2

1.0

6.0

High

14.2

28.8

43.0

2.8

8.6

Global

34.7

91.5

126.2

1.1

4.1

with human problems and improve the quality of life is virtually identical to the number fielded by middle-income and high-income countries (61.1 vs. 65.2 million FTE volunteer workers, respectively).

A different story emerges, however, when we look at relative levels of volunteering measured as a share of the overall economically active population in the respective groups of countries. Measured as a share of the EAP, the inclusion of direct volunteering increases the levels of volunteering reported by the two lower income groups of countries from under 1 % of the economically active population to nearly 3 %. However, this nearly fourfold jump in the volunteering levels affects countries almost identically in the upper income group. As a consequence, the addition of direct volunteering does not significantly narrow the relative gap between high- and low-income countries at all. To the contrary, for the upper middle-income countries it widens the gap, and for the high income countries it shrinks slightly from 3.5:1 to 3.1:1(i.e., from 2.8/0.8 to 8.6/2.8).

  • [1] This grouping is based on World Bank data. The World Bank groups countries into five categoriesbased on their per capita national income and OECD status. For the purpose of this analysis, wecombined high-income OECD and high-income non-OECD countries into one “high-income” group.
 
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