Scottish Household Survey 2018, the importance of informal volunteering

10 September 2019

The Scottish Government have just released the results of the latest Scottish Household Survey for 2018.

SHSInformal volunteering

The Scottish Household Survey still provides the very best view we have on who volunteers across Scotland. For the first time the survey provides detailed information on informal volunteering. What this tells us is that:

  • More adults volunteer informally (36%) than formally (26%).
  • Informal volunteers give their time as frequently and with similar amounts of time compared to formal volunteers
  • In 2018 informal volunteering contributed 121 million hours compared to the formal volunteering contribution of 128 million hours.
  • Informal volunteering is more inclusive across society, with a volunteering participation rate of 31% in the most deprived areas compared to 39% in the 20% least deprived areas (respective formal volunteering rates are 20% and 31%)

Informal volunteering is an important litmus test for strong neighbourhoods and engaged communities. Communities where people help each other informally provide invaluable contributions, for example in the alleviation of social isolation and loneliness – 18% of people ‘keep in touch with someone who is at risk of being lonely’.


Formal volunteering

The headline rate for formal volunteering has declined to 26% from 28% in 2017. However, on the upside there are encouraging signs that formal volunteering is becoming more inclusive:

  • The gap between adult volunteering rates in the most (quintile 1) and least deprived (quintile 5) areas has reduced from 18% in 2017 to 11% in 2018. The formal volunteering participation rate in 2018 was 20% in quintile 1 and 31% in quintile 5 (respective rates for 2017 were 19% and 37%).
  • The gap in volunteering between low and high household incomes has narrowed by 5% due to a fall in participation rate for those earning more than £40,000 (from 39% in 2017 to 34% in 2018)
  • The increased volunteering participation for those who are unemployed (up from 24% in 2017 to 26% in 2018, equivalent to the national average).


Other interesting findings include:

  • The adult formal volunteering participation rate may be lower in 2018, but the frequency of volunteering is higher. Twenty per cent of formal volunteers did so regularly (at least once a month), a 3% increase from 2017.
  • However, volunteering hours remain relatively unchanged from 2017.
  • The 35 – 44 age group still have the highest volunteering participation of any age group at 33%.
  • The survey also highlights the disproportionately important contribution of women volunteers in the 35 – 44 age group (37% for women versus 28% for men).
  • The decline in youth volunteering to 26% for those aged 16 – 24 (compared to 29% in 2017).
  • The continued importance of formal volunteering in rural Scotland with participation rates of 31% and 34% for ‘accessible rural’ and ‘remote rural’ respectively.
  • The growth in local community or neighbourhood volunteering has increased from 19% in 2017 to 21% in 2018. Community volunteering is highest for those aged 60-74 at 29%.
  • Volunteering related to children’s education and schools is highest for those aged 35 – 44 at 39%.
  • Acting as a committee member or trustee is highest for those aged 60+ at 36%


We'll be providing our own interpretations of this data over the next few days and weeks. In the meantime, we'd be very interested in any comments you have.

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