2011 has been designated the European Year of the Volunteer by the European Union. This is following a campaign led by Marian Harkin MEP (Ireland/ALDE). She worked with the unofficial “EP Volunteering Interest Group” to lobby the Parliament, the Council and the Commission on this initiative.
Volunteering is very important in many Member States. Across the EU 92 to 94 million adults are involved in volunteering in the EU. That is 23% of all Europeans over 15 years of age. But is that enough?
Also it varies widely among the member states. In Austria, Netherlands, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom have volunteering rates of over 40%. In Denmark, Finland, Germany and Luxembourg volunteering is between 30%-39% of over 15 year olds. Estonia, France and Lithuania have rates between 20%-29%. In Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ireland, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Romania, Sweden and Spain it is between 10-19%. And in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Latvia volunteering is at less then 10%.
While each country does have different definitions of volunteering and some have legal definitions, the disparate figures go to show that volunteer in most member states could do with a helping hand.
This is especially important in our current economic times as volunteering can add to GDP. For example, volunteering accounts for between 3% and 5% of GDP in Asutria, Netherlands and Sweden. In Ireland it contributes between 1-2% of GDP. This is a resource that we can build on and may help us overcome some of our difficulties.
There are a number of websites out there to highlight the year,
- European Year of Volunteering 2011
- Volunteer! Make a Difference”: European Commission launches the European Year of Volunteering 2011
- EYV 2011 ALLIANCE
- Interview with Marian Harkin
So get out there, and volunteer. Help make a difference to someone else’s life and your own!