Australia’s volunteers are worth $200 billion – annually.
Revealing the figures, the University of Adelaide said they would only get bigger with the looming retirement of the baby boomer generation.
Senior Research Associate from the University’s School of Social Sciences, Dr Lisel O’Dwyer, said the annual economic contribution of volunteers was more than that of the mining sector.
Dr O’Dwyer said volunteering in Australia benefited both the general public and individual volunteers, and was worth much more than just its monetary value – a whopping $200 billion.
“If a volunteer fire fighter saves the life of a child, what is that worth? If environmental degradation is slowed because of millions of trees planted by volunteer conservationists, what is that worth? And if an elderly person receives a hot meal five days a week, what is that worth?” Dr O’Dwyer said.
“The value of volunteering is difficult to measure. Volunteers gain a broad range of new skills that are transferable to their workplace, for example. They are healthier, fitter, more mentally alert and more socially connected than people who do not volunteer," she said.
Australia is no stranger to accomplishment when it comes to volunteering, sitting atop the 2010 World Giving Index ranking, and holding the third position in 2011.
The rate of volunteering in Australia has continued to grow since the International Year of the Volunteer in 2001, according to Volunteering Australia’s 2012 State of Volunteering in Australia Report.
Volunteering Australia CEO Cary Pedicini said the report provided an overview of Australia’s progression since the release of the 2001 National Agenda on Volunteering.
“Volunteering numbers have increased across the board, but so has the need. Volunteering continues to be a positive experience for most volunteers and that is an important factor on having volunteers with a long-term commitment,” Mr Pedicini said.
“Australia has a strong foundation for volunteering but we must continue to meet the changing needs of volunteers who want to volunteer in non-traditional ways such as workplace-based volunteering and episodic volunteering, as well as the growing area of virtual volunteering,” he said.
More than 6.4 million people volunteer time in Australia, according to the University of Adelaide study, double the number who volunteered in 1995.