Recent Trends in Volunteerism: A Comparison Between European and North/South American Countries

  • Domenico MarinoEmail author
  • Marina Schenkel
Conference paper
Part of the Studies in Systems, Decision and Control book series (SSDC, volume 180)


In a preceding work on European data it has been found that during the crisis volunteers have increased in the whole Europe, with some exceptions (Schenkel et al. 2016). The most popular fields of volunteer activity are sport and artistic/cultural associations. Sport events are also a main occasion of “episodic volunteerism”, which has gained popularity in the last years. The participation to community and neighbourhood organizations is also increasing.

The same trend is not to be recognized in the other Western countries, across their different stage of development and institutional settings. The reductions in spending on public services, the increase in unemployment and the decrease in employment have happened also across the Atlantic, even if with a different timing between North and South America. Important political events in many countries have brought about changes in government and policies.

After a brief reference to literature, including some definitions and classifications of volunteers (Sect. 2), some recent data on North and South America will be commented (Sects. 3 and 4).

The better criterion to classify the various areas examined is very simple: to distinguish between the ones where volunteerism has increased, and the ones in which it has not, diminishing or remaining constant. This hardly coincides with any geographical or cultural divide. In the first group we find, beside the world and Europe as a whole, Mexico, France and Italy, in the second Spain, UK, USA, Canada, Argentina, Brazil. It can be argued that the different intensity and length of the crisis is a prime determinant of these diverging trends: the last three countries were not particularly hit by the economic downturn in the period 2008–2014, and USA could recover quickly from it. The reason why in UK and Spain volunteers have diminished can be that these countries were not only stricken by the crisis, but also by a particularly severe cut in public expenditure towards non-profit and volunteer associations. In order to appreciate the impact of changing economic conditions, a particular interesting case is the one of Argentina, where volunteers increased enormously during the crisis (2001–2002), and diminished again during the “resurrection”.

The qualitative features of the stock of volunteers, as already noted, has changed in the sense that all age groups and both genders are more or less equally represented, in every country. Another interesting constant across the various countries is that the majority of volunteers are employed.

This image of the volunteers is quite different from what we have been used to consider so far, that is, an aggregate where most people have a lower attachment to the labour market, and therefore a low value of leisure.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mediterranea University of Reggio CalabriaReggio CalabriaItaly
  2. 2.Udine UniversityUdineItaly

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