Youth Forum research outlines the challenges of the legal status of volunteers in Europe
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The European Commission estimates that 23 percent of Europeans over the age of 15 are volunteers, which is around 92 to 94 million people. But what is a volunteer? What is the legal status of a volunteer? What are some of the challenges and implementation mechanisms of current policies? A research of the European Youth Forum explores these questions.
In general, there are no legal frameworks for volunteering or comprehensive, unified volunteering laws that define volunteering in Europe. Instead, frameworks for volunteering are implicit in a country’s laws. This includes countries such as Austria, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Norway the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. In Mediterranean countries, such as Italy, Spain, Portugal and France, volunteering laws and policies have been enacted to support and further expand strong traditions in volunteering.
Looking across Europe, there is no one definition of volunteering. According to the European Parliament, volunteering ‘is not undertaken for financial reward ai??i?? is undertaken of oneai??i??s free will ai??i?? brings benefit to a third party outside the circle of family and friends (and) is open to all.ai??i?? Kamagra Chewable for sale, zithromax online. However, volunteer laws, definitions of volunteering and the legal status of volunteers vary significantly. In those countries were a legal definition of volunteering exists, common elements include work taken on for the benefit of others (beyond the family) and work towards a common good.
Looking across Europe, there is no one definition of volunteering.
The lack of a common definition of a ‘volunteerai??i?? presents some major challenges for researchers and policy makers. Such diverse definitions means a lack of clarity on the scope of work, social protection and compensation of a volunteer. Cross-national comparison is also difficult, which puts into question the relevance of some reported statistics.
Across Europe, the greatest challenges relate to the social protection of volunteers. These include the complexity of legal frameworks with regard to accounting and taxation, the lack of research and data on volunteering in member states, the lack of sustainable funding to volunteer organisations, the lack of targeted funding to support a European infrastructure for volunteering, which could be used to share good practices, exchange information (including research), build understanding across countries and bridge work across governments, civil society organisations and grassroots initiatives.
Other challenges are the lack of quality standards for volunteering, potential (and perhaps unintended) devaluation of volunteer work in countries where unemployment benefits put restrictions on volunteer time or where long-term volunteer work is not taken into account in the calculation of pensions and general lack of social protection and insurance for volunteers in some countries. An individual organisation would be responsible for the protection of the individual volunteer for risks of accidents, illness or third party liability that directly relate to the volunteerai??i??s activity.
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Particular challenges for youth volunteering are restrictions on volunteering (e.g. time, employment status, age), lack of flexible work schemes to combine job, education and volunteering, lack of recognition of skills obtained during volunteering and lack of European-level guidelines to provide guidance for skills assessment. Without such standards, it is difficult for institutions of education and employers to recognise and allocate credit to volunteer work.
Others include lack of recognition of volunteering learning outcomes by employers and the education system, youth mobility and transnational work of volunteers, which create a need to address border policies as they relate to volunteer work, particularly the distinction between visa requirements for European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA) citizens and those who are not and movement across Europe for volunteer opportunities of less than three months appears to be relatively easy for EU/EEA citizens. For those coming from outside the EU/EEA to volunteer in a country within, visa requirements depend on both the European country receiving the volunteer and the volunteerai??i??s nationality.
European youth volunteers have both rights and responsibilities. These include certain rights to health care, as well as responsibilities to pay taxes on any income. Although volunteering is generally an unpaid activity, some organisations might offer compensation, such as covering expenses or providing food and lodging. The level of taxation might be determined at the national or local level and length of stay in a country (e.g. residency status). In Portugal, for example, tax status depends on the nature of the volunteerai??i??s activity and relationship with the organisation for which they volunteer.
Moving forward, it is important to take into account the obstacles and challenges faced by volunteers in Europe, which can be addressed with a rights-based approach. The European Youth Forum launched the initiative for a Charter on the Rights of the Volunteer that addresses these and other dimensions. The findings from the research suggest that this would be an appropriate mechanism to further the development of volunteering in Europe.
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