The Economics Behind Volunteering

taken from the economist

taken from the economist

Andy Haldine, chief economist of the Bank of England recently gave a talk about the economics of volunteering.  The message that he sent was that contrary to popular belief, volunteering has an immense impact on society.

The amount of impact clearly depends on where you are looking.  It is clear that different countries have different customs when it comes to volunteering time and effort and some populations are much more engaged in volunteer work than others.  Since no monetary transaction takes place, many statisticians ignore the effects of volunteering.

This deliberate ignorance of the impact of volunteering irked Mr. Haldine, who then compiled information from a variety of sources to evaluate the activity’s effect on the country at large.  He was able to conclude that about 1.5% of Britain’s GDP is accounted for by volunteering (£24 billion).  This means that volunteering produces twice as much for Briton as the agricultural sector and about the same amount telecoms, making it a huge contributor to economic success.

Haldine suggests that it is harder to judge the value of volunteering in people’s private lives.  Studies have found that volunteering makes you both healthier and happier.  In fact research suggests in order to be compensated for time and lack of well-being, someone who was deprived of volunteering for a year should be compensated about £2400 per year.

In addition to personal well-being, volunteering helps the health of the community.  The social benefits of volunteers are to raise the standards of living for others and fosters a collective and constructive mindset.

There are countries, like turkmenistan where volunteering has become compulsory on certain days, and Japan with its tradition of community service, but many other countries have a lackluster attitude.  Mr. Haldine hopes that this attitude is combatted as people find out how rewarding and enjoyable it can be to volunteer.