I volunteer some of my time to a local charity. The amount of time it takes up isn’t huge, but I am finding that it is increasingly hard to make this small commitment, especially as the amount of work expected of us in the charity is greatly increasing.  With a full time job, new house (in the middle of renovations) a young baby and other commitments (this blog for example) I started sounding out other members of my charity about leaving. I was shocked to discover that at least half of the members of the charity were also trying to leave as the workload was getting too much. They all had families, jobs etc and not enough time to devote to the charity.  

I then got to thinking about charities in New Zealand. I thought about how much good work they do and how much they rely on volunteers. I then thought about those that volunteered in our communities. Now I assumed that volunteers are generally those without day jobs – stay at home mums and the elderly who added to our communities through valuable unpaid jobs. Staying at home to bring up the next generation of society (whether children or grandchildren) volunteering at the local church, club, school etc. All of this work that is gone unrecognised and unrewarded (generally) – after all, if you aren’t in paid employment, you’re not really a productive member of society are you? (That at least, seems to be the implication in today’s society).

With this in mind I thought that I’d look at the statistics on volunteering in New Zealand.  According to the New Zealand Charities Commission document, “A snapshot of New Zealand’s charitable sector” for the year ending 28 February 2011, 21,535 reporting charities claimed 448,295 people volunteered for them.  Or about 10% of the population.  According to a more in-depth look (albeit based on a survey at a 95% confidence level) the Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector claimed that between December 2009 and March 2012, the level of volunteering in New Zealand has remained constant at about 30% (of those over 10 years old). I was surprised at this high level of volunteering, although these latter numbers were not limited to charitable volunteering. Despite my pessimistic view that it must be harder for organisations to find volunteers nowadays (due to the modern norm of a two-income household) it seems that the numbers of volunteers in New Zealand has remained fairly static recently. For this trend to continue into the future, do we need to remind ourselves that people can be gainfully employed and not be in paid employment?

Marcus Roberts was two years out of law school when he decided that practising law was no longer for him. He therefore went back to university and did his LLM while tutoring. He now teaches contract and...