Fewer people do volunteer work

© Hollandse Hoogte / Flip Franssen
In 2021, the number of people engaging in volunteer work continued to decline. That year, 39 percent said they had participated in volunteer activities for an organisation or association at least once over the previous twelve months. The share stood at 51 percent ten years previously. In 2020, it was 44 percent. The decline between 2020 and 2021 was seen mainly in volunteer work at schools, in youth work and in work for cultural associations. This is evident from new figures released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

The figures have been taken from the annual survey on social cohesion and well-being, which also includes additional questions about volunteer work at the request of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and the volunteer umbrella organisation NOV. In the survey, people aged 15 years and over were asked, among other things, about their commitment to volunteering in the twelve months and four weeks prior to the survey. In this case, depending on when the survey was taken, respondents in 2021 partly looked back on 2020 and partly on previous months of 2021. Both years had periods of coronavirus measures such as lockdowns.

Volunteer work, 15 yrs and over
JaarPast 12 months (% of people who volunteered at least once)Past 4 weeks (% of people who volunteered at least once)

No further decline in recent volunteer work

The share of people reporting they had volunteered in the four weeks prior to the survey did not continue to decrease in 2021. In 2020, there was still a significant decline: from 31 percent in 2019 to 21 percent.

Decline mainly among youngest and oldest age groups

In 2021, people aged 15 to 34 and people over 75 in particular said they were less active as volunteers compared to the previous year. In the oldest age group, 27 percent had done volunteer work in 2021, down from 35 percent in the previous year. The group aged between 35 and 55 traditionally has the highest share of volunteers; in 2019, it was still around 55 percent, but it fell to around 45 percent in 2021.

Volunteer work, by age group
Leeftijd2021 (% of people who volunteered at least once in the past 12 months)2020 (% of people who volunteered at least once in the past 12 months)2019 (% of people who volunteered at least once in the past 12 months)
15 to 24 yrs38.144.144.8
25 to 34 yrs30.839.842.3
35 to 44 yrs44.548.954.7
45 to 54 yrs44.648.253.4
55 to 64 yrs39.243.046.2
65 to 74 yrs43.644.247.7
75 yrs and over27.335.331.7

Strongest decline at schools and sports clubs

Just as in previous years, in 2021 relatively many people volunteered for sports clubs (12 percent), although this was lower than in the two preceding years. The share of volunteers at schools declined as well in 2021: from 11 percent in 2019 to 6 percent in 2021. The share was also around 6 percent in care, as well as among youth organisations, ideological organisations and organisations not fitting into the other categories. Around 4 percent of the population volunteered in their district or neighbourhood, for a hobby association or a social club or for a cultural association or organisation.

Volunteer work, by organisation or association
Organisaties2021 (% of people who volunteered at least once in the past 12 months)2020 (% of people who volunteered at least once in the past 12 months)2019 (% of people who volunteered at least once in the past 12 months)
Sports club11.713.015.2
Youth work6.07.48.4
Ideological organisation5.96.36.7
District or neighbourhood4.24.55.7
Hobby club3.94.34.7
Cultural association3.74.84.8
Trade union or industrial organisation2.22.12.7
Social aid1.81.61.9
Political party1.11.11.3

Nearly a quarter say their employer makes allowances

In 2021, people in paid employment were asked whether the employer was making allowances for volunteers, e.g. allowing employees to work as volunteers during working hours or to donate employer’s funds or materials. This was the case according to 23 percent of the volunteering employees. At 14 percent, employees not working as volunteers were less likely to say an allowance was made for volunteers. More than one third in both groups (volunteers and non-volunteers) stated their employer was not making allowances for volunteers.

Employer considers volunteering employees
VrijwilligerYes (% of employees)No (% of employees)Do not know (% of employees)
Volunteer themselves233641
Do not volunteer themselves143353