Gender and volunteering
Rates of regular formal volunteering do not vary between men and women
- In terms of formal volunteering in the last 12 months, no gender differences were observed (41% of men compared with 42% of women).
- Broadly equal proportions of men and women reported volunteering at least once per month (26% of men and 27% of women).
- More pronounced differences were observed in terms of informal volunteering; more women than men volunteered informally in the last 12 months (58% of men and 63% of women).
- A higher proportion of women volunteered informally on a regular basis (38%) compared to men (30%).
In terms of people who have done any volunteering over the course of a given year, last year the figures suggested an emerging gender difference: however, this difference has become narrower in the current data. 69% of men reported having done any volunteering in the last year, while 71% of women reported having volunteered.
Rates of participation can differ between men and women depending on the type of activity being undertaken.
According to data from Helping Out,  a 2007 national survey of volunteering and charitable giving, women were considerably more likely to provide caring roles and men more likely to give advice and represent others. On the other hand, equal numbers of both men and women provided help with ‘cooking, cleaning and laundry’.
Further data from the 2015/16 Community Life Survey  suggests that these gender differences are still present in terms of types of activities/ However, they also show that in the main, there are more similarities than differences in terms of activites overall, both in formal and informal volunteering activities.
The biggest differences in formal volunteering activities were in representing and providing transport/driving (where more men than women reported the activity), and visiting people and other practical help (where more women than men reported the activity).
In terms of informal volunteering activities a limited number were reported by more women than men, including baby sitting or caring for children, and keeping in touch with someone who has trouble getting out and about.
Volunteering and age
People of all ages volunteer
Differences between age groups in terms of formal volunteering rates have become more pronounced in recent years, with a number of group differences observed in the 2015/16 data.
- Those aged 26 to 34 and 75 and over tend to volunteer least often on a regular basis: 21% of 26 to 34 year olds reported volunteering once a month; for 75 and overs this figure was 24%.
- However, while 75 and overs also have the lowest rates of volunteering once a year (32%), this figure is higher for 26 to 34 year olds (39%).
- The highest rates of monthly volunteering are in 16 to 25 year olds (32%) and 65 to 74 year olds (31%), though these figures represent the first year where regular volunteering rates in 16 to 25 year olds have not increased since 2010-11.
- Irregular rates in the 16 to 25 age group are still improving, up to 49% in 2015/16 from 47% in 2013/14.
Rates of regular formal volunteering among young people have dropped for the first time since 2010/11
- Rates of formal volunteering have been rising among young people for a number of years, with the 2014/15 regular formal volunteering data having shown an increase of four per cent from the previous year. These increases were not present in any other age groups.
- While irregular volunteering continues to show a small increase in young people, from 47% to 49%, for the first time since 2010/11 there has been no increase in regular volunteering, where it has dropped from 35% to 32%.
Other research has looked specifically as rates of participation in social action in young people.
- In the Youth Social Action Survey  – a 2015 face-to-face survey of 2021 young people aged 10-20 in the UK – 42% had taken part in some form of meaningful social action, meaning regular participation in or time given over to volunteering, fundraising, supporting others, tutoring/coaching, campaigning or improving the local area.
- A further 17% reported less regular participation in these kinds of activities. Fundraising and/or sponsored activities were the most commonly reported (43% of all respondents said that they had done this at least once in the last year), followed by giving time to charities or causes (32%) and supporting others (28%).
Age and gender
There are different patterns of formal regular volunteering by age and gender.
- Levels of volunteering among young women are higher: 37% of women aged 16-24 reported regular formal volunteering, compared with 28% of men in the same age group.
- This pattern is reversed in the 24-34 age group, where rates are lower overall: 16% of women volunteer in this group, compared with 26% of men.
- Differences between men and women are less pronounced in the other age brackets.
Volunteering and other demographics
Volunteering and religion
- 34% of formal regular volunteers stated that they are involved with a religious group in some way.
- This is not the largest type of group that is involved in organising volunteering activities, but there are some indications that people who are actively practising religion are more likely to be volunteers.
- 35% of survey respondents who said that they were actively practising religion reported doing regular formal volunteering, compared with 24% of those who were not practising.
- A similar pattern is observed with regular informal volunteering. 41% of survey respondents who said that they were actively practising religion reported doing regular informal volunteering, compared with 31% of those who were not practising.
Rates of volunteering vary according to where people live
Rates of volunteering are higher in rural areas.
- 26% of those living in urban areas volunteered formally on a monthly basis, compared with 33% of those in rural areas.
- There is also a divide between inner and non-inner cities: 17% of people living in inner city areas reported regular formal volunteering, compared with 28% in non-inner city areas.
- The same pattern also applies to those who have done any formal volunteering in the last year: 40% in urban areas compared with 50% in rural areas.
In terms of regular volunteering, the regions with the highest rates of formal volunteering were the East Midlands, the West Midlands and the South West, all at 33%.
- The lowest rates were observed in the North West and London, both at 17%. This is the lowest rate reported in London since before the 2012 Olympics.
- Rates are more stable in other regions, though the large increase noted in the East of England in last year’s data appears to have returned to previous levels observed in the region.
There is no simple relationship between deprivation and rates of formal volunteering
- In general, those in deprived areas are less likely to volunteer than those in the least deprived: for example, 15% volunteered regularly in the most deprived areas of England (i.e. in the 10% most deprived Lower Super Output Areas) compared with 36% in the least deprived.
- However, most of the deciles between these have a volunteering rate of between 25% and 33%, suggesting that the most barriers to volunteering are found in the most deprived areas.
Socio-economic classifications, employment status and volunteering
- The highest regular formal volunteering rates – that is, over 35% – are observed in two socio-economic groups in the data from the 2015/16 Community Life survey.
- These are large employer and higher managerial and administrative occupations and lower professional and higher technical occupations, at rates of 38% and 35% respectively.
- The lowest rates are observed in lower supervisory and technical occupations (16%) and never worked/long term unemployed (12%).
However, these socio-economic classifications contrast with other measures of employment.
- Data from previous years has suggested no differences in volunteering rates based on employment status.
- The 2015/16 data suggests that people who are unemployed are more likely to do regular formal volunteering than those in other groups: 35% of unemployed people reported regular formal volunteering, compared with 27% of people who were employed and 27% who were economically inactive.
- This pattern is similar in irregular formal volunteering. 53% of people who were unemployed compared with 43% who were employed and 39% who were economically inactive.
- The differences between the two classification measures may suggest that there are differences in rates between people who are long term unemployed and those who are short term unemployed. However, it should be noted that the group of unemployed people surveyed was small, representing less than 100 people in the 2015/16 data.
Full time students do more volunteering than non-students or part-time students.
- 39% of full-time students volunteered formally on a monthly basis, compared with 25% of part-time students and 26% of non-students.
- The same pattern also applies to those who have done any formal volunteering in the last year: 59% of full-time students compared with 42% of part-time students and 40% of non-students.