The paper examines the policy relevance and economic significance of the volunteering sector. It presents a case for an expanded definition of volunteering, encompassing activities performed outside formal organisations
The paper uses statistical analyses to examine the profile of volunteering in Australia. Higher levels of participation in voluntary activities are associated with higher status occupations, university level qualifications and living in regional areas. Importantly, volunteering played a crucial role in building and maintaining social capital. However, not all volunteers had the same opportunities to build social capital, with adult carers looking after someone in the same household having only one hour per week of socialising time.
The paper concludes by examining Australian volunteering activity in an international context. It found that Australians spent about half the amount of time volunteering as people in Canada, Finland, France and the United Kingdom.