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Survey of volunteering shows Gen Y expects to volunteer in work hours

Jack and Alice Maxwell are volunteers at the Sacred Heart Mission in St Kilda. Photo: Photo: Angela WylieThe United Nations created International Volunteer Day in 1985 to recognise people who donated their time at “considerable personal sacrifice” but for Generation Y, the notion has evolved into personal gain.

Gen Ys have redefined unpaid work by expecting to volunteer during work hours and award themselves a halo by adding it to their resume. And they want a tax incentive. These are the findings of a survey by SEEK, the nation’s largest website for volunteering opportunities.

Volunteer Day on December 5 is a time to reflect on what selfless means because 46 per cent of Gen Ys believe their employer should provide paid days off to volunteer. And 61 per cent think the government should provide a tax incentive.

To paraphrase 1990s super-model Linda Evangelista, they don’t get out of bed unless there’s a dollar in it for them. The UN must have been referring to volunteer surf lifesavers and firefighters for risking their lives, not those wanting to enhance theirs.

Of course, not all Gen Ys are takers rather than givers. For a generation that is typecast as entitled or lazy, two people rolling up their sleeves are Jack Maxwell, 24, and sister Alice Maxwell, 21.

Growing up with strong social-justice values, they help feed the disadvantaged at the Sacred Heart Mission in St Kilda and see close up what hardship is 300 when people pack into the dining hall for lunch.

Mr Maxwell is doing a post-graduate law degree at the University of Melbourne and has volunteered for five years. He believes small gestures go a long way and can help change the world. “I’m just there chopping up veggies so someone can have a feed,” he said.

Ms Maxwell is also at Melbourne University doing a Bachelor of Arts (honours) and said while poverty and homelessness seemed like an impenetrable issue, working in a kitchen made a tangible difference.

“You do a four-hour shift with a clearly defined role and there is visible impact on these people who need a simple meal,” she said.

Australia is not a nation of selfish slackers because data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics on “voluntary work” shows 6.1 million people volunteer for an average 1.1 hours a week. While the motive is altruistic, the SEEK survey found 66 per cent of people believe volunteering is “something attractive” to add to their resume.

Not everyone is out to impress an employer or get a promotion or pay rise. Driven by the desire to “pay it forward”, Caroline Chagas is a 30-year-old marketing consultant who volunteers as a Lifeline telephone counsellor over the needy Christmas period but doesn’t list it on her resume.

“I don’t do it for the kudos or to get ahead,” she said. “It is my personal conviction that I have a responsibility to the world I live in.”

Victoria needs 4146 volunteers judging by the number of positions listed on Volunteering Australia’s GoVolunteer website, which is run by SEEK. The causes span sport, drug and alcohol support, indigenous Australians, arts and culture.

Volunteering evokes passionate responses about “giving back” and doing it from the heart but it can be useful beyond bragging on a resume. One flippant line people use is: “It’s always good on the CV – when you’re in court.”

And when campaigning for world peace and trying to win Miss Universe.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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