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25th April 2023

Scottish Household Survey - 2021 Results

The SHS results for 2021 were published Tuesday 25 April 2023. Only formal volunteering is reported on odd-numbered years. The SHS Team has cautioned against comparing their 2021 data with previous years due to changes in the research method, and representativeness of the sample.

The 2021 SHS Annual Report presents a very interesting volunteering dataset. Although the formal volunteering participation rate remains stable at 27%, there have been important variations in volunteering participation by demographic characteristics and by type of volunteering

Key findings

  • The formal volunteering participation rate is 27%, which is not statistically different compared to the flatline rate of 26% during the previous three years: 2018 – 2020.
  • Local community/neighbourhood volunteering continues its upward trend from 22% of volunteers in 2019, to 25% in 2020 and now 30% in 2021. This is likely to reflect the importance of community support during the height of COVID-19.
    • Volunteering in ‘youth and children’s activities’ outside school was the second most popular type of volunteering at 17% of adult volunteers, but it remains lower than the pre-pandemic level of 23% in 2019.
    • It is encouraging to see an increase in physical activity and sport volunteering to 16%, up from the 12% in 2020, and comparable to the pre-pandemic level of 15% in 2019. However, gender disparity remains with 21% of male volunteers involved in physical activity and sport volunteering compared to only 11% of female volunteers.
    • Disabled adults were less likely to volunteer than the non-disabled (23% vs. 29%), which maintains this long-term disparity in engagement. Interestingly, there were marked variations in the types of volunteering disabled adults engaged in:
      • Health, disability and wellbeing = 22% of disabled adults and 13% of non-disabled
      • Local community or neighbourhood = 37% of disabled adults and 28% of non-disabled.
    • Ethnicity – the main volunteering differential is between ‘white – other British’ at 34% and the other ethnic groups reported (‘white Scottish’ at 26%, ‘white – other’ at 28% and ‘minority ethnic’ at 26%). Interestingly, ‘white – other British’ volunteers are also more likely than other ethnic groups to be involved in ‘local community and neighbourhood’ volunteering at 36%.
    • Deprivation – unfortunately, the long-established variance in volunteering participation rates between adults in the most deprived communities (quintile 1) and the least deprived communities (quintile 5) remains (21% vs. 33% respectively).
    • Geography – again, the usual higher volunteering participation rate for those living in rural areas (33%) compared to those in urban areas (26%) remains. However, a striking finding is the much higher engagement of volunteers in rural areas supporting their local community/ neighbourhood (40%), compared to volunteers in urban areas (27%).
    • Age – there are some key variations by age cohort:
      • young adult volunteers aged 16-34 had a much lower participation in community/neighbourhood volunteering at 19% compared to adults aged 35-59 (32%) and those aged >60 (37%)
      • those aged >60 are much more heavily engaged in ‘religion and belief’ volunteering at 24% compared to those aged <60 (8% for those aged 16-34 and 11% for those aged 35-59)
      • 22-23% of adult volunteers aged <60 support ‘youth/children’s activities outside school’, compared on to only 8% of those aged >60.

    Overarching theme

    The most striking over-arching theme from the results is the increased importance of community and neighbourhood volunteering, which now involves nearly one third of Scotland’s adult volunteers (30%), which is a really encouraging finding.

    However, of perhaps even greater significance, is how volunteers’ engagement with supporting their community varies so significantly by demographic groups. The following groups play a disproportionately important role in supporting their neighbourhood/community:

    • 37% of disabled volunteers
    • 36% of ‘white – other British volunteers
    • 40% of rural-based volunteers
    • 37% of volunteers aged >60