Friday, March 18, 2011
[IWS] Dublin Foundation: EUROPE & VOLUNTEERING (Briefs) [February 2011]
IWS Documented News Service
Institute for Workplace Studies----------------- Professor Samuel B. Bacharach
School of Industrial & Labor Relations-------- Director, Institute for Workplace Studies
16 East 34th Street, 4th floor---------------------- Stuart Basefsky
New York, NY 10016 -------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau
European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Dublin Foundation)
BRIEFS on EUROPE & VOLUNTEERING
The extent of formal volunteering varies between European countries, depending on the available organisational setup and infrastructure to facilitate and encourage volunteering. Since the rules and incentives for registering voluntary organisations vary between Member States, however, comparing the extent of even solely formal volunteering across countries is difficult. Data from both Eurostat’s Standard Eurobarometer 2010 and Eurofound’s European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) cast more light on the phenomenon of volunteering.
Older people have typically been seen as the beneficiaries of voluntary activities. Indeed, the role of voluntary services is likely to become increasingly important in the context of cuts in state-provided welfare services and payments as a result of the economic crisis. However, increasing attention is also being paid to the contribution and potential of older people as voluntary workers.
The formerly communist countries of central and eastern Europe provide a good example of how strongly volunteering is influenced by political and social traditions. These countries’ communist legacy did not favour a culture of volunteering and influenced the emergence of such a culture after the collapse of the regimes. First, the very notion of volunteering as an activity arising from grassroots level challenged the power of the communist state, which claimed to have the capacity to provide for all citizens. Secondly, ‘voluntary’ work in these countries was – in reality – compulsory unpaid work in schemes initiated by central authorities, resulting in negative connotations for the term ‘volunteering’. Nowadays, however, participation in voluntary and charitable activities in some of the new Member States (NMS) is above the EU average.
Although the Eurobarometer surveys in 2006 and 2010 show relatively little change in the level of participation in volunteering, recent Eurofound research points to a general upward trend in many Member States. The growth in volunteering of the last 10 years is partly attributed to public initiatives to promote volunteering, an increasing number of voluntary organisations (perhaps reflecting greater awareness of social and environmental problems) and growing needs for delivery of public welfare services. The upward trend may reflect an increasing involvement of older people and more positive public perceptions of volunteering, particularly in some of the new Member States.
In most Member States, no legal provision or specific support schemes exist to facilitate private sector companies’ engaging in corporate volunteering. Nonetheless, more companies are introducing such initiatives. CSR Europe, the European business network for corporate social responsibility, and its national-level partner organisations such as Business in the Community (in Ireland and the UK) are actively involved in promoting volunteering by staff in companies
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Director, IWS News Bureau
Institute for Workplace Studies
16 E. 34th Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10016
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