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Full-time workers with flexible hours more likely to volunteer

Eileen Greer, a volunteer delivery driver of four years for the Meals On Wheels program operating out of Sunnybrook Hospital, makes her deliveries in the north Toronto area Tuesday July 17, 2012. A new Statscan study looks at the relationship between employment and volunteerism.

Tim Fraser/The Globe and Mail

Want to boost volunteerism in Canada?

Give staff flexible work hours. And workers: cut down on commute times.

A Statistics Canada study out Tuesday explores the relationship between work and social participation. It finds that full-time workers with flexible schedules (ie those who can choose their start and finish times and who can sometimes work from home) were more likely to volunteer on a regular basis than those on fixed schedules.

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"This difference between workers with flexible and fixed work schedules remained after taking into account the influence of education, age group, industry, parenthood as well as other factors," the agency said.

The study comes as fewer Canadians, in general, are offering to do unpaid work. Both formal and informal social participation rates were lower in 2010 than in the 1990s, the paper said. Still, as of 2010 the benefits of social participation are "considerable," it said equating to almost 2.1 billion hours – or a volume of work equivalent to nearly 1.1 million full-time jobs. "This does not include the many benefits that are more difficult to measure because of their qualitative nature, such as social cohesion, solidarity, and reinforcement of citizenship," it said.

Commute times also make a difference, with those who take 45 minutes or more to get to work less likely to be regular volunteers than those with shorter commute times, this week's analysis shows.

The paper also looked at trends among the self-employed. Women who are self-employed are more likely to volunteer than men who are (and far more likely to volunteer than employed people).

And there's a link between that volunteer activity and the businesses they run. "Self-employed women...reported having a greater connection between their employment and their volunteer activities," Statscan said. For example, "they were more likely to report that their volunteer work had helped them get a job or start a business."

Other factors also boost the likelihood of being a volunteer, among them, regular attendance at religious services, holding a university degree or being a parent of school age children.

This study is based on data from the 2010 general social survey on time use, as well as another survey on on giving, volunteering and participating.

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Here are some numbers from this week's study, by Martin Turcotte and Stéphanie Gaudet of the agency's labour statistics division:

  • about one in five core-aged full-time workers in 2010, or about 2 million people, regularly volunteered five or more hours a month. That compares with about one third of part-time workers and almost a quarter of unemployed people who volunteered the same amount.
  • of full-time workers with flexible work conditions, 26 per cent volunteered on a regular basis, compared with 18 per cent among those those with fixed work schedules.
  • of full-time workers who took 45 minutes or more to get to work, 15 per cent were regular volunteers, compared with 21 per cent among those whose commute was half an hour or less.
  • self-employed women are far more likely to be volunteers. More than a third, or 35 per cent, of self-employed women were regular volunteers, compared with 21 per cent of self-employed men and a rate of 19 per cent among employed men and women.
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About the Author

Tavia Grant has worked at The Globe and Mail since early 2005, covering topics from employment and currency markets to trade, microfinance and Latin American economies. She previously worked for Bloomberg News in Toronto and Zurich, writing on mining, stocks, currencies and secret Swiss bank accounts. More

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