Volunteerism in the South Caucasus

Unpaid voluntary work helps to foster social cohesion and promotes a strong civil society. This post presents trends in volunteerism in the South Caucasus and compares it to data for countries in the European Union. In the South Caucasus, Armenia has the highest level of volunteerism, while Georgia has the lowest. People who volunteer in the South Caucasus are more likely to be male, employed, and to have a higher level of formal education – which is similar to the profile of a volunteer in the EU countries.
Rates of volunteerism in the South Caucasus region have remained rather stable in the past few years. The 2011 and 2012 Caucasus Barometer asked, “Which of these activities have you been involved in during the past 6 months”, with “volunteering work without compensation” as one of the possible answer items. The result of the study show that 24% of Armenians, 21% of Azerbaijanis, and 14% of Georgians said they had volunteered without compensation within the past 6 months. Data between 2011 and 2012 appears to show a slight increase in Armenia and Azerbaijan, and a decrease in Georgia. However, all of these changes are within the margin error of ±3%.

The average level of volunteerism in the South Caucasus region was 20% in 2012. The average level of volunteerism found in the 2006/2007 wave of the European Social Survey (ESS) was 25%. This was for at least one act of volunteerism within 6 months for 24 European Union countries and 6 non-EU countries: Croatia, Israel, Norway, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. The ESS study also asked respondents about their experience of volunteering within the previous 12 months prior to the survey, and 36% said they had volunteered at least once. The 5 year difference between the 2012 CRRC and 2006/2007 ESS survey does not allow for robust comparisons, but the data referring to the same time span as in CB survey questions is not available for more recent ESS surveys. Nonetheless the reported averages for the past 6 months for the South Caucasus countries, and the EU member states and their environs (Croatia, Israel, Norway, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine) are quite similar.
What is interesting, the profile of a typical volunteer in the South Caucasus (CB 2012) is also similar to that of a typical volunteer in the EU. Men are significantly more likely to participate in voluntary activities. People who volunteer are also more likely to be employed and to have a higher level of education (measured in terms of the years of formal education in the South Caucasus).

A detailed report by Angermann and Sittermann (2010) on volunteerism in the EU allows also for the between-countries comparisons. The report classifies EU countries with volunteerism rates between 20-29% as ‘medium-high’ (e.g.Estonia, France, and Latvia). If the same categorization were applied to the South Caucasus, Armenia and Azerbaijan would also belong to this group, with 24% and 21% volunteerism rates, respectively. Countries with volunteerism rates between 10-19% are classified as ‘relatively low’ (e.g. Spain, Poland, Ireland, and Romania). Georgia would belong to this group with its volunteerism level of 14%.
Although volunteerism rates in the South Caucasus countries are still lower than in many EU countries, a significant part of the populations in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan considers volunteering important to be a good citizen. CB 2012 data shows that volunteering was perceived as extremely important for being a good citizen by 39% of Armenians, 27% of Azerbaijanis and 48% of Georgians. This positive attitude might help to encourage volunteerism in the region, and to make it a more popular activity in the future.
For more information on volunteering in Georgia specifically, please see the EPF/CRRC report available here.