How can we create greater pride in public service and volunteering?

What’s the problem?

Alt text Community views of the public service are important. They inform decisions on the number of public servants and public service agencies as well as the services they provide.

The Centre for Policy Development has found that most Australians support government exercising an active role in society and the economy. Australians are also generally supportive of increased public service funding, even if it means paying higher taxes. However, while there is a high level of community support for increased government investment in health and education services, there is a relatively lower level of support for expenditure on sport, the arts and welfare. There is also a relatively low level of support for general government administration. One theory is that we are more likely to value ‘visible’ frontline services compared to ‘invisible’ public servants engaged in administration, policy development and managing government finance. However, one can’t work without the other.

Community attitudes and behaviour are also impacting on volunteering in Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, changes are occurring in the levels of involvement in activities connecting people to their broader community and the way people are interacting with the community outside their household. These changes are consistent with a decrease in the time and opportunity that Australians have for recreation and leisure, and social and community interaction. This is translating to declining rates of volunteering.

Seven things you need to know

  • The strongest support from the community for public service agencies is to deliver education and health services.

  • In 2014, volunteering rates declined for the first time since the ABS began national voluntary work surveys in 1995. Volunteering rates peaked in 2010 when 36% of people aged 18 years and over were volunteering. The rate in 2014 was 31%. This meant approximately 5.8 million people contributed 743 million hours to the community.

  • Women are more likely to participate in voluntary work than men (34 per cent and 29 per cent, respectively).

  • The highest rates of volunteering were for young people aged 15-17 years (42 per cent), those aged 35-44 years (39 per cent) and older people aged 65-74 years (35 per cent).

  • The most common type of organisations that people volunteer for are sport and physical recreation organisations. However, people were less likely in 2014 than in 2010 to be involved in social groups such as sport or physical recreation groups, arts or heritage groups, and religious or spiritual groups or associations. Participation in sport and recreational activities decreased from 74% in 2010 to 70% in 2014.

  • Nearly half of all volunteers have volunteered for more than 10 years and more than two-thirds of volunteers report that at least one of their parents had also participated in voluntary work.

  • The most commonly reported reasons for volunteering are to help others or the community (64 per cent), for personal satisfaction (57 per cent) or to do something worthwhile (54 per cent).

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