Voluntary work is part of a countries’ economic value creation. The fact that it remains unconsidered in GDP is – like the issue of household work – based on normative decision of the commissions that were advancing the standardization of national accounts with a focus on paid work.
Not considering voluntary work leads to a systematic undervaluation of this form of work in national accounts and therefore needs to be corrected, also with regard to the social and welfare development of a country. In this respect, voluntary work adds positively to the National Welfare Index.
The development of the monetarized voluntary work shows a decline of 8 billion euro (12 %) from 68 billion to 59 billion euro between 1991 and 2014. This decline was caused by a reduction of time spent for voluntary activities, which was identified in the time-budget survey of 1991/92, 2001/02 and 2012/13.
According to these studies, the amount of time spent for voluntary activities fell by 15 % (3 minutes per day, from 20 to 17 minutes) between 1992 and 2013.
Increasing voluntary activity is usually regarded as a positive sign of social cohesion – for example, if the elderly engage after retirement for social welfare. A reduction of voluntary activity is thus regarded rather negatively. However, in cases where social benefits are shifted towards voluntary work such an increase can also imply a decline of the welfare state. Vice versa, a decline might also signify additional social services by the state or other institutions.