Manual on the Measurement of Volunteer Work

This manual presents a data collection strategy for measuring volunteer work that is cost-effective and reliable. It provides a definition of volunteer work, a measurement methodology to identify volunteer workers and their characteristics, and an estimation methodology to value their work. The 18th ICLS discussed and approved the Manual in 2008, making this the first-ever internationally sanctioned guidance to national statistical agencies for generating official statistics on volunteer work, using a common definition and approach.


This manual presents a data collection strategy for measuring volunteer work that is cost-effective and reliable. It provides a definition of volunteer work, a measurement methodology to identify volunteer workers and their characteristics, and an estimation methodology to value their work. The 18th International Conference of Labour Statisticians discussed and approved the Manual in 2008, making this the first-ever internationally sanctioned guidance to national statistical agencies for generating official statistics on volunteer work, using a common definition and approach.

The manual is meant to serve as a reference for statisticians to measure volunteer work, as well as a guide to researchers, policy-makers and others who wish to understand and use the resulting statistics. The manual is intended to help raise awareness of the need for statistics on volunteer work, a crucial labour resource that improves the quality of life everywhere in the world. The manual, therefore, is an integral part of ILO’s commitment to decent work.

Under the auspices of the ILO Department of Statistics, the manual was prepared by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies in cooperation with an international Technical Experts Group and with support from United Nations Volunteers. Its publication coincides with the 10th anniversary of the United Nations International Year of the Volunteer (IYV 2001), that called on governments to recognize and improve their measurement of volunteer work.