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Volunteering: good for society… and for you!

Nowadays, contrary to common belief, volunteering is an intergenerational activity. It allows people to develop new skills, meet new people, change directions...

There is no specific age for volunteering

From the age of 15, many Belgians get involved on a voluntary basis. According to a study carried out in 2020 by the King Baudouin Foundation, it is the 30-49 years old who show the highest rate of volunteering, i.e. 8.8%. But it is people over 60 who form the largest group of volunteers: almost one in three volunteers is over 60 years old. It is also this age group that, on average, performs the most hours of volunteering.

Who are these 866,500 volunteers in Belgium?

  • They represent 9,2% of the population.
  • Among them, 735,000 do so within an organized framework: association, public service or social enterprise.
  • A volunteer works an average of 4 hours a week of their time.
  • Most of the volunteers are regular: 34.3% do it once or several times a month and 30.3% weekly or even on a daily basis.
  • Volunteers are loyal: 86% of volunteers are only active in one organization and 47.8% have been active for more than 5 years.
  • Participation in voluntary activities is highly dependent on the level of training: the more people are qualified, the more they volunteer.
  • The majority of volunteers are employed or retired.

Men and women prefer different sectors

Men and women are roughly equal when it comes to volunteering. While men are more involved in sports, women tend to focus on culture, education, training and research, as well as social assistance.

The impact of COVID-19 on volunteering

In 2020, the associations noted a sharp decrease in the number of their volunteers but also in the time allocated to volunteering. This drop can be explained by the predominance of the over 60s in volunteer activities. The negative impact has been more important for the larger associations which usually rely on a large number of volunteers.

Having a heart is good for your health!

American and Canadian studies have shown that there is a direct link between engaging in a volunteer activity and improved physical and psychological well-being.

Among seniors in particular, volunteers have a lower mortality rate and depression levels and better functional capacity. Volunteering enables retirees to feel useful as well as to get out of the house, meet new people, and flourish as they take on new projects.

A Swiss study has shown that people who hold down jobs and also engage in volunteer activities have better health than other workers, and are more satisfied with their work-life balance. 

Volunteering at ING

Each year, ING offers its staff the opportunity to dedicate one day of their working time per year to a Belgian non-profit association. Employees can choose from a wide range of social and environmental projects. More than 1000 employees are supporting around 100 societal projects each year. Regularly, new volunteering opportunities are offered to employees, allowing them to share and put their skills to the benefit of good causes.

Ready to get involved?

To conclude, volunteering is good for our health and can be practised on an “à la carte” basis!

If you would like to become a volunteer, contact your municipal administration to obtain a list of active associations near you.  

In collaboration with Pierre Degand