OECD Report Finds Low Levels of Volunteer Work, NENO Disagrees

laine uudised-laine
15. Apr 2011

The OECD "Society at a glance" report found that only 22% of Estonians volunteer, the 3rd lowest number in the OECD, after Turkey and Greece. NENO's Urmo Kübar disagrees, citing reports by Praxis and TNS Emor, who have both reported that approximately half of the population volunteers.

Estonians work long hours, but not for free, is the message sent by the latest OECD "Society at a Glance" report. The report cites Estonians as working a whopping 8 hours and 32 minutes a day (5th in the OECD), while only 22% of the population engages in volunteer work (3rd lowest number in the OECD). Clearly a concern for the non-profit sector, which relies heavily on volunteering, not to mention the state of civil society as a whole.

However, commenting this issue to the daily newspaper Postimees, NENO's Executive Director Urmo Kübar explained that the situation is not as dire as it seems from the report. The report in questions surveyed looked at Estonians who have engaged in volunteer work in the span of a month, whereas comparable surveys done by Estonian organizations such as the Think Tank Praxis or TNS Emor looked at volunteer work over the course of a year, and reported much better numbers. According to local surveys, about half of the population has engaged in volunteer activities in the past year.

Moreover, a report conducted by TNS Emor two years ago found that 90% of Estonians have performed charitable activities, such as making donations, volunteering, or participating in charitable events. "These numbers are slowly, but surely growing," said Kübar.

Kübar said that more important than increasing the number of people involved in volunteering, is improving the quality of volunteer work. "Currently, some acts of charity may end up backfiring or turn out to be useless," Kübar told Postimees, emphasizing the importance of educating citizens about the possibilities and dangers of volunteering. Kübar said that the key issue now is to develop ways to accurately assess the effectiveness of organizations using volunteers and effectiveness of volunteer labor.

Currently, the state does collect yearly reports from non-profit organizations, but access to them is not free, preventing analysis. While NENO's pre-election manifesto prominently emphasized the importance of making the registry of NGO-related data free and open to the public, the proposal made it to the Reform Party and Pro Patria and Res Publica Union coalition agreement with the words "free and open" deleted.