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Active ageingVoluntary work by older people in Europe$

Andrea Principi, Per H. Jensen, and Giovanni Lamura

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781447307204

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447307204.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM POLICY PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.policypress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Policy Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PPSO for personal use.date: 05 March 2021

Older Volunteers in Sweden: A Welfare State in Transition

Older Volunteers in Sweden: A Welfare State in Transition

Chapter:
(p.197) NINE Older Volunteers in Sweden: A Welfare State in Transition
Source:
Active ageing
Author(s):

Per-Åke Andersson

Dominique Anxo

Publisher:
Policy Press
DOI:10.1332/policypress/9781447307204.003.0009

Abstract and Keywords

The main objective of this chapter is to describe the mains features of the Swedish voluntary sector and the enrolment of older people in this sector. Sweden has a large non-profit and volunteer sector. The Swedish experience shows that a large voluntary sector is compatible with a strong and universal welfare state. Since the State is strongly involved in the provision of social services and the financing of a generous and encompassing social protection system, the Swedish volunteer organisations are less active in the fields of social services. By international standard, the participation rate of older volunteers is high and Sweden offers more opportunities than restrictions for older people to be engaged in volunteer activities. In spite of a recent retrenchment of the public sector and an increase of more welfare service oriented associations, the large majority of volunteer organisations are voice organisations and less of a philanthropic nature.

Keywords:   Sweden, volunteer organisations, older volunteers, welfare state

Introduction

Non-profit volunteer organisations are well integrated into Swedish society, and play an important role in many different sectors. The voluntary sector was estimated to comprise around 50,000 organisations in 2009, with six million adult Swedes members in at least one voluntary organisation –this corresponds to around 80 per cent of the adult population. The organisations engaged 110,000 paid employees and 934,000 unpaid volunteers (Statistics Sweden, 2011). The voluntary sector's contribution to GDP (gross domestic product) is estimated at around 5 per cent (Wijkström and Einarsson, 2011).

The Swedish experience shows that a large voluntary sector is compatible with a homogeneous and egalitarian society with a strong and universal welfare state. Actually, the relationship between Swedish civil society and the Swedish state has been one of close cooperation. The collaboration between the Social Democratic Party, the labour movement, housing associations and consumer organisations during the rise of the Swedish welfare state is particularly notable. The presence and strength of the non-profit and volunteer sector can be attributed to the popular movement tradition, such as the labour and Socialist movements, as well as a reflection of the distinctive features of the Swedish welfare state.

The Swedish model is based on a strong political commitment to the goals of full employment and price stability, as well as to egalitarian ideals supporting processes of individualisation. It is based on the principle that all citizens have access to the same standard and quality of services independently of the individual level of income, that the individual, and not the family, is the basic unit not only of taxation but also of social benefits and social rights, and the full integration of women into the labour market (Anxo and Niklasson, 2006). Labour (p.198) market participation is high for both men and women. The economic activity rate in 2011 for those aged 15-74 was 68 per cent for women and 74 per cent for men (Statistics Sweden, 2012). The Swedish family form can thus be characterised as a dual breadwinner/external care model, epitomised as a trend towards de-familisation (Esping-Andersen, 2003).

The characteristics of the welfare state have played an important role in how the volunteer sector is structured and has developed over time. Since the state is strongly involved in the provision of social services (childcare, education, health, elder care), and the financing of a generous and encompassing social protection system, the volunteer organisations are less active in the fields of social problems. Compared to other European countries, the Swedish volunteer sector in the field of social welfare appears, therefore, to be relatively small. Lundström and Svedberg (2003) suggest that the powerful expansion of the social democratic welfare state in Sweden discouraged non-profit involvement and voluntary organisation in these fields.Voluntary work in Sweden is predominantly self-centred/self-expressive rather than philanthropic.

As a new trend, however, it should be noted that the volunteer organisations have increased their activities within the field of social welfare over the past few years. The introduction of new public management (NPM) reforms in Sweden, together with an increased reliance on market competition, waves of deregulation and market-like arrangement, has implied changes for the non-profit and volunteer sector. Traditional welfare services, such as childcare, elder care and education, have been opened up for, among others, non-profit actors (Wijkström, 2004).

A large share of volunteering among the whole Swedish population corresponds to a rather high share of the population involved in volunteering in older age compared with most of the European countries. Even if volunteering in Sweden is mainly self-expressive, Swedish older volunteers are involved in both self-expressive (for example, in cultural and recreational activities), and altruistic (for example, in the social services and religion sectors) volunteering. Given the recent overall trend of increasing volunteering activities in social welfare, the role of older volunteers is supposed to increase, in the near future.

In light of this, the main objective of this chapter is to present the background, size, composition and enrolment of older people in the voluntary sector and possible developments of their volunteering in Sweden. This chapter starts with a short historical outlook and then (p.199) discusses the legal framework. The next section presents data on the significance and magnitude of volunteer work with a special focus on older volunteers. Opportunities and restrictions for older volunteers are discussed in the third section. The fourth section discusses future scenarios followed by a concluding section.

The Swedish tradition of voluntary action

The voluntary sector has a long tradition in Swedish society, dating back as early as the 16th century. Its history is heavily influenced by its relation to the state and popular mass movements, with their emphasis on membership and activism (Lundström and Wijkström, 1995). Initially, most voluntary work was philanthropic, aiming at alleviating the effects of poverty on the homeless, those with a disability, those who were deprived, and so on. During the 19th century the sobriety movement grew strong, with major actors such as the Swedish Mission Association, a church organisation, founded in 1878, and the International Organisation of Good Templars (IOGT) founded in 1879. Child welfare was also increasingly recognised, and charity organisations initiated institutions, as orphanages and reformatories, for young people.

The sobriety organisations, together with the labour movement's organisations, consolidated the voluntary sector in Sweden in the 1880s. While the philanthropic organisations dominated the volunteer sector until the beginning of the 20th century, their social welfare activities declined in importance with the development of welfare state activities and the creation of a modern and universal social protection system (Lundström and Wijkström, 1995).

Instead, popular mass movements became the dominant feature of the volunteer sector. These movements included the free churches, the modern temperance movement, the labour movement (especially trade unions), consumer cooperatives, the sports movement and adult education institutes. Lundström and Wijkström (1995) suggest that the popular mass movement is a loosely defined type of organisation found in Scandinavian countries, based on the existence of a strong bond and mutual trust between the movement and the general public.

Throughout the last two decades, two significant developments are noticeable. First, the Swedish welfare state, social protection and tax system have undergone a series of transformations and reforms since the end of the 1980s. These reforms, aiming at strengthening ‘work incentives’ and fostering ‘flexibility’, could hardly be achieved without consequences perceived as ‘rising inequality’ (wider dispersion of (p.200) wages, disposable income and wealth) and ‘less security’, in particular, a less generous social insurance system and a weakening of employment protection regulations. The structural reforms undertaken have also included a wave of deregulations, liberalisation and privatisations, aimed at exposing previously protected activities to competition. The implementation of these reforms has, to a large extent, involved the dismantling of previously existing public monopolies and an increase in private for-profit and non-profit suppliers. The striving for efficiency-enhancing competition has been manifested not only in a somewhat increasing role for private providers, but also in organisational reforms intended to achieve more competition between different agencies within the public sector, for example, between different schools, hospitals and universities, as well as productivity-enhancing organisational changes (rationalisation, downsizing, management by objectives, NPM and so on) (Anxo, 2013). Second, and perhaps as one of the consequences of this new climate of ‘less security’, membership in voluntary organisations of a popular mass movement type has significantly diminished. This is assumed to have a significant role on volunteering, since these memberships have traditionally been the bridge into it (Olsson et al, 2005).

Statistics Sweden (2011) estimates that voluntary organisations had an annual turnover of approximately SEK 210 billion (around €21 billion) in 2009. Around 66 per cent of revenues were membership fees, private donations, second-hand sales and sales of services to Swedish municipalities. Donations and transfers from the state corresponded to 34 per cent of total revenue. State funding can be in the form of core funding, activity grants, commission reimbursements and project grants. In addition, purchase of services by Swedish municipalities amounted to around SEK 14 billion, and occurred mainly within the education and social services areas.

Donations and transfers from the state are mainly concentrated in the following sectors: education and research, international, culture and recreation. Most dependent of the public sector are organisations active in the international sector. These voluntary organisations received 90 per cent of their revenue from the state in 2009. The corresponding figure for the education and research sector is 83 per cent. The Swedish state seems to be ‘young-friendly’ when it comes to donations and transfers to voluntary organisations. Associations with a large participation of older people such as pensioners' organisations, sobriety organisations, culture organisations and religious organisations are not being prioritised by the Swedish public sector (Statistics Sweden, 2011).

(p.201) The legal framework

The Swedish legal system is based on common law. The volunteer or non-profit organisations are not regulated by an explicit and separate body of laws, and therefore their regulations and status are principally the outcome of courts ‘and judicial decisions and case laws’ (Lundström and Wijkström, 1995).

In Sweden non-profit organisations constitute legal entities that take principally two basic legal forms: either association or foundation. They are regarded as legal when their members have accepted the association's statutes, which usually takes place at a meeting at which the members elect a committee or board of directors. The statutes should contain the organisation's name, objectives and the set of rules stipulating how decisions will be taken. Members normally influence decisions through participation at the general assemblies.

A non-profit association has to pay income taxes and also social contributions if the association employs workers (payroll tax). But it can be favourably treated in respect of income taxation if the purpose and activities of the association are for the benefit of everyone. Membership is open and earnings cover expenses for activities. Swedish law provides no specific legal framework for older people participating in non-profit organisations as volunteers (Swedish Tax Agency, 2005).

The Dimension of Volunteer Work

Using data from national surveys by Statistic Sweden on active volunteering in 1992, 1998, 2005 and 2009, Svedberg et al (2010) suggest that Swedes' commitment to voluntary work has been rather stable and robust during these years. Around 50 per cent of the Swedish population performed unpaid voluntary work –the participation rate varied between 48 and 52 per cent. The authors also note that this strong level of commitment to voluntary work can only be found in a few other countries.

Formal membership is an important feature of Swedish civil society. It is estimated that non-profit organisations have more than 25 million members out of a population of 9 million. Only around 20 per cent of the Swedish adult population was without formal membership in civil society organisations in 2009 (Statistics Sweden, 2011). The trend is declining, however, since only 10 per cent was without membership in the 1990s (Wijkström, 2004).

(p.202) Voluntary organisations

Statistics Sweden (2011) estimates that there were around 50,000 voluntary organisations in Sweden in 2009. As many as 211,000 civil society organisations were registered, but only around a fourth had some basic economic activity. There is no comparable statistics over time, but the discourse in Sweden suggests that the sector is expanding, both in numbers of organisations and in importance. The sector engaged 110,000 paid employees and 934,000 unpaid volunteers in 2009. The unpaid volunteers correspond to 53,000 full-time workers.

Most organisations were active in the culture and recreation sector (37 per cent). Many associations were found in development and housing (10 per cent) and business and professional associations (8 per cent). The employment and volunteer structure follows the same pattern. The culture and recreation sector is the most important considering full-time employees (23 per cent) as well as contribution of volunteers (37 per cent). The education and research sector is the second most important in view of employees, while business and professional associations is the runner-up sector (Statistics Sweden, 2011).

The geographical dimension shows that the capital Stockholm is the most important –people living in the capital account for almost 50 per cent of members, 26 per cent of volunteer work and 41 per cent of full-time employees (Statistics Sweden, 2011). These figures seem to indicate that voluntary activity is more common outside the capital.

Wijkström and Einarsson (2011) suggest that the Swedish voluntary sector is undergoing a fast and significant change in line with the overall developments in society. First, a number of new organisations, both non-profit and for-profit, in welfare provision as in healthcare, social services and education, are being established. These organisations are seen as dedicated tools for welfare service provision by the state. Local governments as well as national government are engaged in expanding contracts to these organisations. Second, a number of new advocacy-type organisations are being established. Some of these are focused on global issues such as human rights and environmental groups, while others are special interest organisations in the field of healthcare. These organisations have professional and well-informed members and staff, and the voluntary sector is being rejuvenated. Wijkström and Einarsson believe that not more than 50 per cent of today's voluntary organisations have been active for more than 10 years.

(p.203) Volunteers by sector, gender and age

As mentioned earlier, Swedish voluntary organisations have a large number of members, but not all are participating actively in the organisations' activities, although the participation rate is high. As shown by Table 9.1, the share of active volunteers of total population aged 16-84 has been stable, at around 50 per cent during 1998-2009. This implies that in 2009 around 3.5 million people provided voluntary work within third sector civil service organisations. Although the share of volunteering of the total population is relatively stable, some alterations can be noted across the various cohorts. First, during the last decade there was a significant decline in the participation of young men. The decline was less dramatic among young women. Second, while the participation of older men aged 65-74 lowered from 2005 to 2009, the rate for women in the same age cohort increased. Third, the participation of both men and women in the oldest age cohort increased.

Table 9.2 shows that as many as 40 per cent of the volunteering Swedes participated in the culture and recreation sector. The second most popular sector is development and housing, where almost 10 per cent of the volunteers worked.

From a gender perspective, men are on average slightly more active than women, and their participation rate is more stable over time.

Table 9.1: Share of the Swedish population volunteering in 1992, 1998, 2005 and 2009, by age and gender (%)

Age

Gender

1992

1998

2005

2009

16-29

Men

51

50

39

40

Women

42

47

43

39

30-44

Men

61

55

59

64

Women

51

57

60

54

45-59

Men

54

62

55

56

Women

45

53

48

36

60-64

Men

44

54

56

54

Women

38

38

45

38

65-74

Men

38

45

56

51

Women

33

45

37

44

75-84

Men

32

38

Women

24

32

Total

Men

52

53

53

54

Women

44

50

49

43

Source: Svedberg et al (2010)

(p.204) Women increased their rate of participation dramatically from 1992 to 1998 and 2005, but their participation went down again in 2009. The decline is evident in all age cohorts up to the age of 64. But older women have increased their participation. The largest gender differential occurs in the age cohort 45-59 in 2009, where only 36 per cent of women were volunteering compared to 56 per cent of men. The least difference is shown for the youngest cohort.

There are also gender differences in sectoral participation. Olsson (2008) shows that in 2005, men preferred to participate in sports associations (23 per cent), social organisations (20 per cent) and housing associations (9 per cent). In his study, Olsson defines social organisations as organisations that are active in social services, religion and education, as well as parent associations, women's associations and pensioners' organisations. The top three areas of volunteer participation for women were the same, but the ordering was slightly different: social organisations (30 per cent), sports associations (18 per cent) and housing associations (7 per cent). Most striking is that social organisations attract more women than men.

The average time spent on volunteer work has increased over time. In 1992, Swedish volunteers spent 13 hours per month on volunteer unpaid work, but in 2009 they participated with 16 hours per month (Svedberg et al, 2010).

Table 9.3 reveals that voluntary work in Sweden is more self-expressive than philanthropic. It is more common for Swedes to be involved in culture and recreation activities than in classical welfare provision activities in the social services sector. The Johns Hopkins Comparative Non-profit Sector Project estimated that the voice-to-service ratio in Sweden was as high as 107 per cent compared to, for

Table 9.2: Share of Swedish population volunteering in 2005, by sector (%)

Sector

%

Culture and recreation

39.9

Education and research

5.8

Social services

5.6

Environment

6.0

Development and housing

9.8

Law, advocacy and politics

8.5

International

2.8

Religion

8.5

Business and professional association, unions

5.0

Source: Authors' own calculations; Olsson (2008)

(p.205) instance, 2 per cent in Ireland, 10 per cent in Germany and 58 per cent in the UK. Yet, the voice-to-service ratio was calculated as full-time staff (rather than as volunteers) employed in ‘voice’ organisations compared with employment (rather than volunteering) in ‘service’

Table 9.3: Share of Swedish population volunteering in 2005, by age and primary area of activity (%)

16-29

30-44

45-59

60-64

65-74

75-84

Culture and recreation

Culture organisations

6

5

5

4

4

2

Sports associations

20

28

22

7

6

2

Outdoor life associations

2

3

5

3

5

0

Other hobby organisations

6

2

3

4

5

1

Automobile organisations

0

3

3

3

3

1

Pensioners' organisations

0

0

0

0

10

13

Immigrant associations

1

1

0

1

1

0

Women's associations

1

1

0

1

1

0

Education and research

Parents' associations

1

11

5

0

0

0

Social services

Humanitarian assistance

2

2

1

5

3

0

Disability associations

1

2

1

4

1

0

Sobriety associations

1

1

1

0

1

3

Independent orders

0

1

1

6

5

2

Voluntary efforts in public sector

3

4

3

2

1

0

Other social organisations

0

0

1

0

1

0

Environment

0

0

1

1

1

0

Development and housing

Housing associations

2

9

11

12

6

3

Law, advocacy and politics

Political party

1

1

2

5

1

1

International

Peace organisations

1

1

2

5

1

1

Religion

Swedish church parish

2

3

3

5

6

4

Other Christian parish

1

3

3

4

6

4

Business and professional associations, unions

Cooperatives

0

5

3

3

1

0

Trade unions

1

5

6

8

1

0

Shareholders' associations

0

0

1

1

0

0

Source: Olsson et al (2005)

(p.206) organisations. Voice organisations were active in civic and advocacy, environment, business and professional associations sectors. Service organisations are instead principally found in healthcare, social services and education (Wijkström, 2004). Svedberg et al (2010) suggest that voice organisations also continued to be important in 2009 for volunteer work. Almost 80 per cent of the volunteers participated in boards and/or did administrative work; only 19 per cent performed direct social efforts.

Table 9.3 displays the age distribution of volunteer work by type of activities for 2005. As shown by the table, a strong connection between age and participation in some type of organisations becomes visible. Sports associations attract mainly young people. People are active in parents' associations while their children attend schools. Participation in pensioners' organisations starts after the age of 65. While the major pensioners' organisations had more than 600,000 members, only 140,000 of these were active in 2005. Housing associations and trade unions are attractive to people from their middle ages to age of retirement. The trade unions also exhibit a large differential between total membership and active members. The trade unions had 3.4 million members, but only 280,000 were active volunteers in 2005.

There is a strong correlation between educational attainment and voluntary work. The higher the education, the larger the likelihood that a person performs unpaid volunteer work. Furthermore, white-collar workers are more inclined to volunteer than blue-collar workers. In addition, people with a higher income participate more in volunteer activities. These factors explaining participation in voluntary work have changed over time. Explanatory factors such as high education and high income were more important in the 1990s than in the 2000s, while parents' engagement in voluntary work became more important in the latter decade. Thus, a cultural and social inheritance seems to increase in importance (Svedberg et al, 2010).

As for considerations based on ethnicity, first-generation male immigrants participate to a smaller extent in the voluntary sector. While 53 per cent of Swedish males performed voluntary unpaid work, the corresponding number was 38 per cent for males born in other Nordic countries, 20 per cent for men from other European countries and 40 per cent for men from non-European countries. The participation of second-generation immigrants did not differ from the average (Olsson et al, 2005). The differences for female immigrants are less pronounced. Actually, Nordic female immigrants are more (p.207) active (52 per cent) than the Swedes (49 per cent), while other female immigrants were slightly less active (37 per cent).

This leads us to consider that the prototypical Swedish volunteer is a man or woman in the midst of their career and well integrated into society. The person has children, is a native-born Swede and originates from a family with a tradition for civic engagement. In addition, the typical volunteer is well educated. As many as 32 per cent have a university education, 46 per cent secondary school and the remaining 22 per cent compulsory school only (Olsson et al, 2005).

Participation of Older Volunteers

In 2005, the prototypical older volunteer was 69 years of age. His/ her educational status was relatively high, but slightly lower than for the average volunteer. As many as 63 per cent of older volunteers had merely compulsory school education, and 21 per cent had a university education. The older volunteers consider their health status to be good and they are outward-oriented in the sense that they often participate in informal networks and meet friends (Jegermalm and Jeppsson Grassman, 2009).

Olsson et al (2005) also show that although the rate of participation in volunteer activities among Swedes declines with age, older volunteers spend on average more time doing unpaid voluntary work. While the largest participation rate is found among Swedes in their middle age, they dedicate only 9 hours per month to volunteer activities. On the other hand, active pensioners between 60 and 74 years of age dedicated 20 hours each month.

Table 9.1 above shows that both men and women's participation falls when they get older, even if the participation rates of the oldest generations can be considered high compared with most of the European countries. In 2009, men's participation rate declined from 54 per cent (60-64 age cohort) to 38 per cent for the oldest cohort, 75-84. Women's participation actually increased to 44 per cent for the age cohort 65-74 from 38 per cent for the 60-64 cohort. Participation then fell to 32 per cent for the oldest ages.

Older volunteers are more involved in pensioners' organisations, church organisations, housing associations and sports associations (see Table 9.3). As many as 10-13 per cent of Swedes in the age group 65-84 volunteered for pensioners' organisations, indicating that volunteering among peers may fill in their desire of informal networking and of meeting friends (Jegermalm and Jeppsson Grassman, 2009), once retired. While there is a general tendency of (p.208) a decrease in participation in most of the activities, an interesting exception is that volunteer participation in parishes stays about the same at all ages. This may mean that the effect of religiosity (or faith) on volunteering is greater than the age effect.

Naturally, people's interest in volunteering in different sectors depends on where they are in their life cycle. For instance, adults having children participating in sports activities appears to be an important factor explaining the active involvement of citizens in local sports associations. Thus prime adults are overrepresented in these associations and the lower participation rate for older citizens is not due to barriers. Life cycle interests explain in the same way the very limited volunteering in pensioners' organisations of citizens who have still not reached retirement age.

From an organisational point of view, Andersson et al (2011) interviewed representatives of nine volunteer organisations in Sweden, and all were very positive about involving older volunteers in their organisations, especially since they could provide important experience and knowledge. Yet some negative aspects linked to the involvement of older volunteers were also found (see also Chapter Eleven of this book). Specific age-related initiatives, for example, in the fields of recruitment, retainment, training, development, flexible practice, job design, well-being and generational relations, were not common in Swedish voluntary organisations.

The largest organisations involving older volunteers in Sweden are the Swedish National Pensioners' Organisation (PRO) and Swedish Pensioners' Association (SPF). PRO has more than 400,000 members. It was founded in 1942, when many developers of the major national popular movements at the turn of the century retired. SPF was founded in 1939 and has around 225,000 members. Both organisations are politically and religiously independent. They are typical interest organisations with an advocacy role in the sense that they look after the interests of senior citizens in various national matters such as pensions, right to work, housing, taxes and healthcare. The organisations also play an important role as social networks, since they have local chapters spread throughout the country, where senior citizens can meet new friends at social gatherings, travel, study, sing in choirs, exercise or take part in other activities. (p.209)

Older People's Participation in Voluntary Organisations: Opportunities and Restrictions

This section includes a discussion on past developments and the present situation concerning opportunities and restrictions in older volunteers' participation in the voluntary sector. The discussion is, of course, affected by ongoing modifications of the Swedish welfare state.

Opportunities and Restrictions for Volunteering for Older People

Svedberg et al (2010) report that Swedes have become more positive about voluntary work. In 1995, 74 per cent considered engagement in the voluntary sector a good way of active participation in a democratic society. This percentage increased to 88 per cent in 2009. There is no information available if older people would have a different point of view, but we would find that very unlikely. Indeed, and as a matter of fact, senior citizens are becoming more active, more interested and more knowledgeable, and the winding down of interest occurs later and later in life, which has positive effects on their volunteering. The only hindrances to senior citizens' participation in the voluntary sector seem to be illness and disability, where there appears to be a self-selection process among the elders with a group of healthier older people active in providing volunteer services, while unhealthy retirees might be less active and more in need of social services. Jegermalm and Jeppson Grassman (2009) report that 80 per cent of the volunteers over the age of 60 considered themselves healthy. These volunteers were also socially active, belonging to networks and meeting friends and family on a regular basis.

Turning to the meso and macro levels, Sweden has a large vibrant civil society, and there are no legal restrictions on older people's engagement in the non-profit and volunteer sector. Participation of older people in volunteering (at least until the age of 74, when health problems are still absent), in all, does not diverge too much from the participation rates of other age segments of the population (see Table 9.1), and so neither policy makers nor voluntary organisations have felt a need for specific programmes for older volunteers. Nevertheless, recent developments of Swedish society (for example, the NPM reform) have fostered the role of volunteering in traditional welfare services, and this may indirectly strengthen the role of older volunteers in the future, since they tend to participate to a great extent in activities within the social services sector through, for example, independent orders, sobriety associations and parishes (Table 9.3).

(p.210) Older People between Employment and Volunteering

Sweden has a strong work orientation. In 1996, almost 78 per cent of the Swedish population in the age cohort 50-65 claimed that they would enjoy having a paid job even if they did not need the money (ISSP, 1997). In 2011 the employment rate for Swedes aged 55-64 was 72 per cent, while it was 12 per cent for the age cohort 65-74. Men participated only slightly more in the labour market then women. Men aged 55-64 had an employment rate of 76 per cent compared to 69 per cent for women. The corresponding figure for Swedes aged 65-74 was 16 per cent for men and 8 per cent for women (Statistics Sweden, 2012).

Anxo and Ericson (2010) suggest that there are two central features in the exit pattern of older workers in Sweden: the high and continuous female participation rate and the similar gender employment profiles across the life course. When studying employment rates from 1995, the authors show that there is an increasing trend for older Swedes. The trend is most evident for workers in the age bracket 60-64, for both men and women. The increase is mainly due to changes in the pension system, where the state is encouraging the working population to postpone their retirement and maybe even to continue working part time after official retirement. Jegermalm and Jeppsson Grassman (2009) observed that of the older volunteers aged 60-84, 34 per cent reported that they still had gainful employment.

Considering the corresponding availability of older people to the voluntary organisations, there seems to be some counterbalancing effects. The ageing population in Sweden, together with the postponement of retirement and the increase of older workers' employment rates, may be supposed to have a negative affect on the volunteering of older people, but this should not be taken for granted. Indeed, the supposed negative effect is not visible in the activity rates of older volunteers presented in Table 9.1. Rather, Sweden presents high rates of both volunteering and employment rates at all ages, suggesting that perhaps support for older people to remain in paid work may have a positive impact on their volunteering (Warburton and Jeppsson Grassman, 2011), even if corporate employee volunteer programmes (that is, a way to reinforce the positive link between employment and volunteering) do not seem to be particularly widespread in Sweden. On the other hand, as also previously mentioned, older volunteers spend more hours on volunteer activities than younger ones. Thus another explanation may be that the overall positive effect of a healthier and more interested group of senior (p.211) citizens may outweigh a supposed negative impact of the increase of the labour force participation of older workers.

Older People between Family Care and Volunteering

The nature of the Swedish welfare model implies that few older people are caught between family care and volunteering, as the preferred type of elder care in Sweden is formal, with nursing homes/residential care and public/private service providers playing an important role (Eurobarometer, 2007). There is a tendency, however, that the public sector is moving away from more expensive residential care towards home care services. During the time period 2000-06, older people living in nursing homes went down 17 per cent to around 196,000, while public/private home service provision increased 19 per cent to 280,000 beneficiaries (National Board of Health and Welfare, 2007).

In 2009, only 5 per cent of the population took care informally of a person with special care needs in their home. The level of participation was similar for men and women, but while men spent 36 hours per month, women spent 153 hours (Svedberg et al, 2010). Thus, relative to this albeit limited Swedish population segment of informal caregivers, it may be women in particular who face difficulties in reconciling caregiving with other activities, including volunteering.

Improving the match between Supply of Older Candidates with the demand of Voluntary Organisations: Future Perspectives

Andersson et al (2011) report that Swedish volunteer organisations do not experience difficulties in recruiting older volunteers with specific experience or knowledge. Thus, there is no current matching problem between needs and the availability of older volunteers. Developments on the Swedish civil society scene might change this situation. The non-profit sector is becoming more complex and dynamic. New organisations are being established, while older organisations are being transformed. New opportunities in welfare provision such as healthcare, social services and education are arising, and, on the one hand, as anticipated earlier (see p 209), this may be beneficial to the volunteering of older people. On the other hand, new advocacy types of organisations are being established, with demands on professional and well-informed members and staff (Wijkström, 2004; Wijkström and Einarsson, 2011). Thus, it is expected that non-profit organisations will demand more and more well educated volunteers, and a matching (p.212) problem might occur for older volunteers in the future, in some sectors or activities, since they are those less educated ones, on average (see p 207).

Even if this possible future mismatch is not currently being addressed at the institutional level, some interesting insights on how to possibly manage it can be drawn at the organisational (or meso) level, using a parallel of what is being done to overcome this kind of mismatch in the labour market. In general, there are a number of companies in Sweden that are specialists in labour market matching, and there is, of course, no hindrance for these companies to also engage in match-making in the volunteer market. Indeed, recently, a non-profit organisation was established aiming at matching potential volunteers (by empowering them and improving their knowledge and capacities) with non-profit organisations. In this case, it is believed, however, that the establishment of this organisation was merely driven by the youth unemployment situation in Sweden: when traditional work is unavailable, young people become more interested in volunteering to have more social contacts and to improve their work situation. Yet similar initiatives may be established in the future, to also foster older people's involvement in volunteering.

Conclusions

The typical older volunteer is around 70 years of age. He/she is more educated than older non-volunteers, but less educated than younger volunteers. He/she has good health and is outward-oriented in the sense that he/she often participates in informal networks and meets friends. Older volunteers are mostly involved in pensioners' organisations, church organisations and other kinds of associations providing social services, housing and sports. Their participation rate is considered high compared with most of the European countries. Sweden offers more opportunities than restrictions for older people to be engaged in volunteer activities. The only hindrances seem to be illness and disability. Some self-selection process seems to be at play with a group of healthier older people being active while unhealthy retirees are less active.

Sweden has a large non-profit and volunteer sector that is well integrated into Swedish society. The majority of volunteer organisations are voice/self-expressive organisations and less philanthropic. It should be noted, however, that Swedish society is changing, and the current government seems to be willing to continue with the current policy of transforming the welfare state, in particular by opening up previously (p.213) sheltered sectors to competition and allowing a greater diversity of providers of welfare services including non-profit organisations. That is, more welfare service-oriented associations are being established in areas such as childcare, care of older people and education. New special interest organisations are also being established in different fields, for example, in healthcare for people with various disabilities. This may have both positive and negative aspects to manage in the future, relative to the volunteering of older people. On the one hand, this may foster their volunteering since they tend to participate more than younger people in altruistic-type volunteering. On the other hand, these developments might indicate that the volunteer organisations will demand more well-educated volunteers in the future, providing a new challenge both for the organisations and for older volunteers.

In this context, the impact of the main external aspects on the volunteering of older people seems to be favourable. Sweden has a strong work orientation and presents high rates of both employment rates and volunteering. Thus, the current tendency that older people postpone their retirement may actually interact positively on their volunteering. On the other hand, family care of older people does not seem to affect the volunteering of older people, since care to older people is, to a great extent, guaranteed by formal services.

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Notes:

(1) For research assistance, we thank Osvaldo Salas.