Volunteers gave 7% less of their time to help their communities, at a loss to the UK of more than £1 billion, between 2012 and 2015, latest figures show.

In fact, there has been a general decline in the time that the UK's unsung heroes and heroines spend volunteering since 2005, according to ONS analysis.

Despite the value of the voluntary sector to the UK, there has been a 15.4% decline in the total number of frequent hours1 volunteered, between 2005 and 2015 – a drop from 2.28 billion hours to 1.93 billion, figures from the Community Life Survey (CLS) show.

Latest figures from 2014 show volunteering represented 2% of the total value of unpaid work, and was worth £23 billion.2

Total frequent hours of formal volunteering, billion hours, 2005 to 2015

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The drop in the amount of time dedicated to volunteering has also been captured in other ONS analysis.3

It showed that, overall, there was a decline in the amount of time put into volunteering. Between 2000 and 2015 it dropped from an average (mean) of 14.5 minutes per volunteer, per day to 13.7 minutes.

This equates to a drop from a weekly average of one hour and 42 minutes to one hour and 36 minutes per volunteer.

Age and volunteering - The Big Society and Beyond

The statistics suggest that those in the youngest age group of 16 to 24 have increased the time they devote to volunteering while those in the 25 to 34 age category have decreased their volunteering time.

In 2015 average time and participation in volunteering was higher for those aged between 16 and 24 (17 minutes per day and 51% participation) and was a noticeable rise as compared to those in the same age group in 2000 (nine minutes per day and 40% participation).

It could be that, as younger people try and secure employment, they undertake voluntary work in order to enhance their CVs, but as they embed themselves in their careers, at an older age, their focus turns to building their careers.

Also, younger people have more free time, with participation rates for students rising the most - by 12 percentage points between 2000 and 2015 – from 46% to 58%.

Average daily minutes of formal volunteering provided, by age, 2000 to 2015

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There have been many incarnations of volunteering schemes, promoted by a succession of governments in the UK.

David Cameron’s Big Society initiative led to the launch of the National Citizen Service in 2011 and has seen more than 300,000 teenagers take part.

However, both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s governments promoted citizenship-style volunteering schemes.

BBC Radio One has been running a Million Hours Campaign, started in 2015, aimed at encouraging young listeners to volunteer for good causes.

Men vs women

Overall, women are streets ahead of their male counterparts when it comes to volunteering and when they volunteer, they do so for longer periods of time.

There was a decline in the number of minutes dedicated to voluntary work for both men and women; from 12.29 per day to 11.29 for men and a drop from 16.30 to 15.65 for women, both between 2000 and 2015.

Average daily minutes of formal volunteering provided, by gender, UK, 2000 and 2015

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In weekly terms, men put in an average of 1.26 hours in 2000, compared with 1.19 hours in 2015. For women, it was an average of 1.54 hours in 2000, compared with 1.50 in 2015.

There also seemed to be a noticeable decline from the 55 to 64 and 65+ age groups. Overall, their input dropped from 17.46 minutes per day in 2000 to 14.48 in 2015.

Those in the 65 and over age group also saw their contribution drop from 19.05 minutes a day in 2000 to 13.37 in 2015

Want to know how much your volunteering time is worth? Check out our unpaid work calculator.

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For more information, please contact: hhsa@ons.gov.uk

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Other notes

  • The report describes formal volunteering which is defined within the Community Life Survey as involvement with groups, clubs or organizations, and giving help through these groups.
  • All prices are in 2015 prices.
  • Volunteering valued at £14.43 per hour, inline with market rates.
  • Figures for weeks and years are derived using frequency of volunteering over past four weeks variable in associated time use surveys.
  • Wage data is from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE)
  • Volunteering time is estimated using the 2000 and 2015 UK Harmonised European Time Use Surveys (HETUS)
  • The volunteering here is known as 'Formal Volunteering'.
  • Formal volunteering is defined as the total time which volunteers perform work for an organisation or through an organisation for free or for a minor charge. The kind of activities included in this group range from administrative work on behalf of clubs or teams to coaching, donating blood or helping out at refuges.


People who work frequent hours are defined as those who volunteer for at least once per month.
Figures obtained from the Household Satellite Accounts (HHSA).
ONS analysis of the Harmonised European Time Use Survey (HETUS).