The Nordic countries use a range of terms for different types of social engagement, reflecting our societies, our languages and the many different forms of voluntary work. The Nordic societies are among the most organised in the world, and voluntary work is therefore very widespread. Between 30% and 48% of people in the region are involved in some form of voluntary work. This puts all of the Nordic countries in the Eurostat top 10 for per capita voluntary work. It is difficult to quantify the value of this work precisely , but for Sweden, the estimated value is SEK 131 billion (2014), in Norway NOK 75 billion (2017), and for Denmark about 2.7% of GDP. In other words, voluntary work generates significant added economic value – and just as importantly, it promotes social cohesion and trust .
In Sweden, the value of voluntary work is estimated to be SEK 131 billion (2014). in Norway NOK 75 billion (2017), and for Denmark about 2.7% of GDP.
The good news is that the proportion of the population involved in voluntary work appears to be relatively stable. However, behind the scenes, there are signs of structural change. Previously, social movements were the most natural way to structure the relationship between the individual and the organisation in civil society. Today, spontaneous volunteering is a more common form of involvement. The amount of time we spend on voluntary work and how active we is going down. According to the report, this is a natural development that reflects the demographic, socioeconomic and cultural changes.
The broader palette of forms of organisation makes it easier for individuals to find voluntary work with ideals and forms more suited to them. However, the is a risk of looser forms of organisation leading to a weakening of the link, or glue, that binds the highest political level and the person in the street together because the traditional social movements are no longer as strong. This entails a danger of the public becoming passive subscribers to politics, rather than active participants in it.
A strong, close partnership with civil society organisations enriches both Nordic co-operation and the individual countries.
The Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Paula Lehtomäki, is keen to strengthen the involvement of civil society in the work on the Council of Ministers’ Vision 2030.
“A strong, close partnership with civil society organisations enriches both Nordic co-operation and the individual countries,” she says.
The report “Voluntary Work in the Nordic Region – Social Cohesion in a New Era” was published on 9 June 2020 by the Policy Analysis and Statistics Unit of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Secretariat.