Scottish Household Survey 2019 – increased inequality for formal volunteering

15 September 2020

The Scottish Government has just released the results of the latest Scottish Household Survey for 2019.

SHS LogoThe Scottish Household Survey (SHS) provides the very best view we have on who volunteers across Scotland. The 2019 results focus exclusively on formal volunteering (informal volunteering is reported every alternate year). All the volunteering participation rates are based on adults (aged 16+) volunteering formally at least once in the last  year.

Formal volunteering

The headline rate for formal volunteering remains static at 26%. Similarly, a number of known variances in volunteering participation remain:

  • Gender– more females than males volunteer (28% vs. 24%)
  • Age– volunteering participation is highest for those aged 35-44 (30%)
  • Sector– the most popular types of volunteering (by proportion of volunteers):
    • Youth or children’s activities outside school – 23%
    • Community or neighbourhood – 22%
    • Children’s education and schools – 19%
    • Health, disability and wellbeing – 18%
    • Physical activity, sport and exercise – 15%
    • Religion and belief – 15%

Increased inequality

Notwithstanding this ‘business as usual’ picture for most of the main indicators of formal volunteering participation, there is worrying evidence of persistent and potentially growing inequalities relating to access to volunteering opportunities.

Deprivation– volunteering participation in the most deprived communities of Scotland is half that of the least deprived:

  • SIMD[1] Quintile 1 (the 20% most deprived areas) – 16%
  • SIMD[1] Quintile 5 (the 20% least deprived areas – 33%

This has been a long-standing issue, but the 2019 differential of 17% between  SIMD Quintiles 1 and 5 reverses the significant improvement witnessed in 2018 where the gap had reduced to 11% (SIMD Quintile 1 was 20% and Quintile 5 was 31%).

Moreover, the decline in volunteering participation in SIMD Quintile 1 between 2018 and 2019 is statistically significant (from 20% to 16%).

Disability– volunteering participation for those permanently sick or disabled is only 10%; the lowest rate recorded since 2011.

Shs 2019 Graph

Older people– there has been a statistically significant decline in volunteering participation by those aged 60 – 74, from 28% in 2018 to 25% in 2019.

We know from other research how important the contribution of volunteering can be to the health and wellbeing of people, particularly those facing disability, mental and physical health challenges and those who are isolated and lonely.[2]  It is therefore all the more important to reflect on this evidence especially given the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable and as equality of opportunity is an underpinning theme of the Scottish Government’s “Volunteering for All: Our National Framework”.[3]

We'll be providing further analysis and interpretation of the SHS data over the coming weeks, but in the meantime we'd welcome any comments you have: Research@volunteerscotland.org.uk


[1] SIMD – Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation
[2] “The contribution of volunteering to Scotland’s health and wellbeing”, Volunteer Scotland, Oct 2019
[3] “Volunteering for All: Our national framework”, Scottish Government, April 2019