UK and Ireland most generous countries in Northern Europe – report

18 November 2014

The UK and Ireland are leading the way in Northern Europe when it comes to acts of generosity, according to a unique study of global generosity released today by the Charities Aid Foundation.

The UK was the second most charitable nation in Northern Europe and joint 7th overall in the World Giving Index 2014, the only global league table measuring generosity by country, after Ireland who came 4th overall.

The report is released just two weeks before the international day of giving #GivingTuesday comes to the UK for the first time which will take place across the world on the 2nd of December, asking people to do one thing for charity, whether that’s giving money, giving their time or giving their voice.

There are 135 countries involved in the report, ranked based on the proportion of the population who volunteer, help a stranger or give money to charities.

In terms of giving money to charity, the UK scored particularly highly, coming joint 4th globally with Ireland, 74% of people here saying they had donated to charity in the previous month. However, this has fallen slightly in the UK since the previous year.

The report also showed that more people aged 50 and over are volunteering in the UK, rising by 5 percentage points since last year’s report and meaning that 1.3 million more people in this age group gave their time in 2013 compared to 2012.

61% of people in the UK said they had helped a stranger in the previous month, down 4 percentage points since the previous year.

The index is compiled by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), an international charity which promotes giving, and is based on surveys by Gallup over the past year, looking at three measures of giving: the percentage of people who have given money to charity, volunteered their time or helped a stranger in the last month.

John Low, Chief Executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: “It’s great to see the UK continuing to lead the way when it comes to supporting others and the voluntary organisations which form the backbone of our society.

“Last year it was particularly heart-warming to see the incredible generosity of the British public in their response to Typhoon Haiyan in the autumn, just weeks before another record-breaking Children in Need appeal.

“We’re bringing the #GivingTuesday campaign to the UK in just two weeks, asking people to do one thing for charity on December 2nd. We hope this will build on the success of the other cause-focused social media campaigns which have swept the world this year and embed acts of generosity even further into our culture.”

Overall, the report showed that more people across the world are giving their time to good causes and performing acts of kindness.

Globally, the number of people who helped a stranger in 2013 has risen by 226 million year on year and 132 million more people are volunteering.

The proportion of people giving money to charity has fallen slightly – by 0.6 percentage points and seems to reflect the slight fall in the global GDP growth rate reported between 2012 and 2013.

Overall the index found that the United States and Myanmar drew as the most generous countries in the world, with Canada third, Ireland fourth and New Zealand fifth. The next five most generous countries were Australia, Malaysia and the UK (in joint seventh), Sri Lanka and Trinidad and Tobago respectively.

Yemen was bottom of the World Giving Index with Venezuela just above them.

Just five of the countries in the top twenty are members of the G20, the group representing the world’s largest economies. Eleven G20 countries are outside the Top 50 and three of these are outside the Top 100.

Typhoon Haiyan appears to have had a significant impact on giving in Malaysia. The country has risen from 71st to 7th in the index as participation in all three behaviours significantly increased, likely as a result of the humanitarian effort made towards the neighbouring disaster in the Philippines.

Iraq has seen a huge jump in the proportion of people helping a stranger – from 42% in 2012 to 75% in 2013. This is likely to be a reaction to the increasing violence in Iraq and an increased need to help those who have been affected.

Analysis of global giving over the past five years shows that across the three measures giving dropped in 2009, the year after the 2008 financial crisis, recovered in 2010, and then fell sharply in 2011, before rising again in 2012 and 2013.

Despite the gap in economic participation which still exists between men and women, women are more likely overall to give money to charity than men. However, this is only true in high income countries, among middle and low income countries men are more likely to give.

On the three key indicators of helping a stranger, giving money and giving time the report found that in 2013:

Helping a stranger

  • Americans were more likely to help strangers than any other nationality in 2013 (79%), and the country also boasts the third highest number of people who do so
  • Iraq and Trinidad and Tobago were joint second for the numbers of people helping a stranger (75%), followed by Jamaica and Liberia in joint fourth place (73%)
  • China tops the list for the highest number of people helping strangers due to its large population. Almost 409 million people had helped a stranger in China in the previous month

Giving money

  • The proportion of people giving money has fallen  in 2013 by 0.6 percentage points compared to 2012, which reflect a fall in GDP during the same time period
  • Myanmar was number one for giving money, 91% report giving to charity in the previous month.
  • Malta (78%) was in second place for giving money, followed by Thailand (77%) and Ireland and the UK in joint fourth (74%)
  • The US joins the top ten for the first time since 2011 for giving money, making it the only country in the top ten for all three types of generosity
  • Fewer people in the 15 – 29 age group are giving money, possibly due to high youth unemployment around the world, which continues to increase
  • Whilst developing and developed countries saw fewer people giving money, transitioning economies have shown a small rise

Giving time

  • Turkmenistan topped the list of countries with the highest proportion of people giving time (53%), followed by Myanmar (51%), Sri Lanka (50%) and Uzbekistan (46%)
  • Volunteering in Ireland and Nigeria has increased by 4 percentage points and 5 percentage points respectively since last year’s report, and Malaysia has seen a 22 percentage point rise in volunteering, pushing these countries into the top ten
  • India has the most people volunteering time, with 186.5 million doing so
    Whilst 22.8% of men volunteer globally, 19.5% of women do – a gap that has widened slightly over the last few years


The World Giving Index is based upon data from Gallup’s World View World Poll, an ongoing research project carried out in more than 140 countries in 2013 that together represent around 94% of the world’s population (around 4.96 billion people).

The countries surveyed and questions asked in each region varies from year to year and is determined by Gallup. More detail on Gallup’s methodology can be viewed online.

In most countries surveyed, 1,000 questionnaires are completed by a representative sample of individuals living across the country. The coverage area is the entire country including rural areas. The sampling frame represents the entire civilian, non-institutionalised, aged 15 and older population of the entire country.

In all, over 130,000 people were interviewed by Gallup in 2013 and samples are probability-based. Surveys are carried out by telephone or face-to-face depending on the country’s telephone coverage.

CAF is an international UK registered charity. Its mission is to motivate society to give ever more effectively, and help transform lives and communities around the world. It advises on and distributes charitable funds around the world and has offices in nine regions: the UK, America, Canada, Brazil, Russia, India, Australia, Southern Africa and Bulgaria.

About #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is a global movement celebrating the amazing acts of generosity people perform throughout the year.  It culminates in an annual global day of giving taking place this year on Tuesday 2 December 2014, the first time it has been celebrated in the UK.

#GivingTuesday was originally created in the United States in 2012 by 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation.  Last year #GivingTuesday spread to other countries including Canada, Australia, Israel, Mexico and Latin America.  Brazil and New Zealand will also join the movement alongside the UK this year.

The movement is built on the collective power of partners – charities, businesses and individuals – to transform how people think, talk about and participate in giving.  #GivingTuesday encourages people to take action in their local communities and give back to the charities about causes they care about.  #GivingTuesday also uses social media to create a global conversation about giving around the world.

Last year #GivingTuesday brought together 10,000 global partners – from tiny community groups to huge multi-national corporations such as Google and Microsoft.  #GivingTuesday also gained the support of over a hundred well-known individuals including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, actor Kevin Bacon and musician Ringo Starr.

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