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EACEA National Policies Platform


2. Voluntary Activities

2.1 General context

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Historical developments
  2. Main concepts

Historical developments

Prior to 1900, volunteering was mainly associated with the idea of charity in a religious setting. The Catholic Church of Luxembourg would implement social activities with the (non-paid) help of the community. With the adoption of the 1868 Constitution, freedom of association was acknowledged to all citizens. Since then, citizens are allowed to associate to promote social, cultural, humanitarian, sport and religious activities. In this period, some important non-profit organisations were created: the Federation of Cultural Organisations in 1863 (now Union Grand-Duc Adolphe) and the Federation of Firemen in 1883 (Vasilescu & Reger-Beau, 2009).

The 20th century was characterised by a rapid development of the non-profit sector and organisations in Luxembourg. The first social, non-profit organisations involving volunteers were the Red Cross (founded in 1914) and Caritas (founded in 1932). Additional non-profit organisations were created in the mid-1960s and subsequent years from a need to help the disabled and elderly people, migrants, the third world, etc. (Vasilescu & Reger-Beau, 2009).

The post-war era was characterised by a general improvement of the volunteering infrastructure. The structure of volunteering organisations improved greatly, and paid staff was also employed. Furthermore, volunteers became professionalised through numerous training opportunities offered by the associations. In addition, for greater transparency and protection of volunteers' rights, volunteering associations were required to offer contracts to the volunteers.

The period around the turn of the millennium was marked by the adoption of relevant laws for the development of the volunteering sector, such as the amendment of the 1928 Law on Non-Profit Organisations and Foundations in 1994 (loi du 21 avril 1928 sur les associations et les fondations sans but lucratif, telle qu’elle a été modifiée par la lois du 22 février 1984 et du 4 mars 1994, Texte coordonné du 4 mars 1994), the 1999 Law on Voluntary Service (loi du 28 janvier 1999 concernant le service volontaire) and the 2007 Law on Youth Voluntary Service ( loi du 31 octobre 2007 sur le service volontaire des jeunes). The International Year of Volunteers (2001) provided an important impetus to volunteering in Luxembourg: a volunteering agency, a higher council for voluntary work and a website for volunteering were created in the following years. 

Main concepts

Luxembourg has no official definition of youth volunteering. However, a distinction is made between 'bénévolat' (French term for voluntary activities) and 'volontariat'.

The Luxembourgish Voluntary Agency gives the following definition of 'bénévolat' (French term for voluntary activities) by defining a person doing volunteering work: 'A volunteer is someone who, of his or her own free will and without remuneration in the monetary sense of the term, undertakes an action in the service of a third party or the community. Volunteering is the free and unpaid commitment of people who act, for others or for the collective interest, in a structure that goes beyond simple family or friendly mutual aid.'

The concept and the objectives of 'volontariat' are defined by the 2007 Law on Youth Voluntary Service.

According to this law, the aim of youth voluntary service is to develop solidarity between young people, to promote their active citizenship and to foster mutual understanding. The voluntary service facilitates learning and guidance activities of general interest within the framework of a specific project or within the framework of a national or international programme (Art. 1). Youth voluntary service is a full-time activity, not paid, of general interest and based on the volunteer's personal decision of free will. (Art. 2, 3).

A large number of voluntary activities in Luxembourg take place in community life (sports clubs, music societies, youth organisations, scout movement, etc.) without a legal framework that defines objectives, contents, age limits and the period of the voluntary activity. Rules and regulations are not defined by law, but by the organisations themselves, so that the degree of political regulation is rather low. Persons participating in voluntary activities in these organisations are usually not paid, and the voluntary activity is often a secondary occupation in addition to a paid job or school attendance. These forms of engagement show a high diversity with regard, for instance, to the kinds of activities or the amount of invested time.