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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

In their extensive sociological study of Malta, Sultana and Baldacchino (1994) identify the Church of Rome as one of the most decisive influences on contemporary Malta. This is reflected in the Maltese historical culture of volunteering. According to a national report submitted as part of Study of Volunteering in the European Union, volunteering in Malta has a relatively long established tradition, which is especially rooted in the activity of the Church organisations, particularly their missionary work. The report also notes that the teaching profession also played an important role in establishing volunteering and subsequently civil society. Since the beginning of teacher training in the 1940s, there has been a continuous practice among teachers over the following decades to become strongly involved in sector activities – such as setting-up organisational structures and offering voluntary services.

Traditionally youth organisations seemed to mirror such reality with church-based / affiliated youth organisations being among the most active, together with political parties’ youth organisations. During the last decade this seems to be changing. Young people's involvement in traditional voluntary organisations (political parties, religious associations and church bodies) has declined, but membership has increased markedly in other organisations like trade unions, sports, health and third world development groups (Council of Europe, 2005).

Historically, on a youth policy level, the notion of youth volunteering first appeared in the first revision of the National Youth Policy in 1999. This document called for young people to take up volunteering while also highlighting a statutory commitment to recognise the importance of youth volunteering in the development of young people and pledging to offer assistance to organisations that work with and for young people.

The interest in youth volunteering also continued to manifest in all the other revisions of the National youth policy. The second revision of the National Youth policy in 2004. The document clearly noted that the State should recognize, encourage and support young people who are involved in voluntary work. The third revision of the National Youth Policy went a step further. This document presented 11 vertical policy thematic statements including Community Cohesion and Volunteering. Amongst other things the document noted that through volunteering initiatives, the community benefits from the resource of young people’s creativity and innovation and appealed for the safety and well-being of volunteers as well as the recognition of the achievements of the young volunteers. This approach was also adopted in the current formulation of the National Youth Policy. This documents emphasised a cross-sectoral approach to youth policy and identified youth volunteering as one of its 7 main action plans. The document emphasises a statutory commitment to encourage and facilitates young people’s engagement in volunteering on both a National and European level.

Further to this, another historical landmark came about in 2007 when the Voluntary Organisations Act was enacted in the Laws of Malta intended to regulate voluntary organisations and their administration in Malta.

Moreover, the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector, set up through the Voluntary Organisations Act of 2007. As part of its remit this Council is charged with the promotion of a culture of volunteering and participation in especially children and youth, as an aspect of personal and social development, established a Youth Voluntary Work Scheme on a national level. The intention behind this scheme is to help young people improve their skills and employment prospects by giving them an opportunity to take up volunteering as part of their formal and informal learning process. The scheme also enables young volunteers to discover the value of voluntary service and helps to foster a sense of community and active citizenship. The second goal of the Youth Voluntary Work Scheme is to support Voluntary Organisations in attracting young people to volunteering, enabling them to enhance their capacity with new volunteers and fresh ideas.

In 2016 a national survey conducted by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector showed that 15% of the respondents between 18 -24 years old and 16% of 25 – 34 years old were actively involved in the voluntary sector.


 Main concepts

Malta has no official definition of youth volunteering. However, the Voluntary Organisations Act defines a ‘volunteer’ as a person who provides unremunerated services through or for voluntary organisations. However, the act does not exclude the possibility that members of a voluntary organisation receive remuneration  from  the  organisation  when  they are engaged  or  are  an employee of the organisation under a written contract or when they are the providers of any goods or services to the organisation.

Voluntary organisations are then defined as foundations, trusts, associations of persons or temporary organisations which are independent and autonomous of the Government and such organisations shall have their status respected by the Government at all times.

In addition, the third revision of the national youth policy that had been published in 2010 stated that volunteering contributes to a cohesive society creating bonds of trust and solidarity as well as social capital and so youth volunteering not only contributes to personal development, but also to a cohesive society. Building on this the National Youth Policy Towards 2020: A shared vision for the future of young people looks at youth volunteering as initiatives to enable young people to be active members of their local communities and take responsibility for the quality of community life and the local environment.