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EACEA National Policies Platform


2. Voluntary Activities

2.4 Youth volunteering at national level

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. National Programme for Youth Volunteering
  2. Funding
  3. Characteristics of youth volunteering
  4. Support to young volunteers
  5. Quality Assurance (QA)
  6. Target groups

National Programme for Youth Volunteering

As mentioned before there is no national programme for volunteering in the Netherlands. The government does support volunteering activities in general but municipalities and ngo’s are responsible for the execution of volunteering efforts and work.


Social service (Maatschappelijke Diensttijd MDT)

Central government stimulates young people to use their talents in providing an amount of their time to do social service and with it to make civil society stronger. By doing social service young people can learn something and at the same time contribute to society. Government finds it important that all young people are able to serve a period of time in social service, no matter their education, background or stage of life. After consulting young people about their views and ideas on how such social service period should look like, pilot projects have started in 2018 to experiment with social service. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport is responsible for the development of social service.

ZonMW, the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development, has assessed the subsidy requests for experimental projects for social service, with the help of a  panel of young people and experts. The projects should be compliant to the wishes of young people. That was an important  criterium in selecting the projects, and young people’s assessment was decisive in granting the subsidies.

38 projects have been chosen that started from the middle of September 2018. About 13,000 young people went ahead with a period of social service. There was lots of choice in the kind of social service. Young people could work in care, sports or culture, in rural areas and even at sea.

National Youth Council’s involvement in MDT

The National Youth Council NJR has been involved in MDT from the start. They ensured that young people played a central role in the process of developing the social service programme MDT. They  organized design meetings, participated in national conferences and ensured that young people could  give their opinion on the initiatives.

NJR is still closely involved in MDT in various ways: as part of the core team to stimulate and organize youth participation, as initiator and coordinator of the MDT youth panel (since 2019), as a participating organization with an MDT project (Sprint, in collaboration with CNV Young Union), as co-initiator of the MDT community and as an advocate for all young people and youth organizations in the Netherlands through the NJR board.

Participate with MDT

Since March 2020 all young people between 12 and 30 years old can voluntarily donate an amount of time to do social service Maatschappelijke Diensttijd MDT. On the website Doe mee met MDT (Participate with MDT) they can find out more about MDT and chose a project they want to contribute to.

Young people can work in a variety of sectors: nature & animals, sustainability, engineering and IT, politics and government, education, media and culture, sports, safety, and welfare and care. Social service takes at least 80 hours in a maximum of 6 months. Participants receive supervision, often training, and a certificate or other reward afterwards.

The position at the end of 2022 shows that of the 98,000 young people aged 12 to 30 years more than 63,000 young people have now started work and 39,000 young people have completed their MDT trajectory. In 2022, 71 projects have been awarded funding from subsidy round 5a, from which approximately 100,000 young people could start an MDT trajectory.


Characteristics of youth volunteering

Statistics Netherlands (CBS) published the research paper Vrijwilligerswerk: activiteiten, duur en motieven (Arends and Schmeets, July 2018) (Voluntary work: activities, duration and motives). Over a period of 6 years (2012-2017) the response of 45,695 persons was available and analyzed.

Almost half (48.5 percent) of the Dutch population of 15 years and older said in 2017 that they had been active as a volunteer for an organization or union, at least once a year. Until that time this percentage was fairly constant since 2012.

About 50% of all young people were involved in voluntary work. Most volunteers were active in sports clubs, schools, youth organizations, religious or philosophical organizations and in care and nursing. Volunteers spend an average of 4.5 hours a week doing voluntary work, with most hours (4.9) being spent in youth organizations and the least hours (1.5) in the neighbourhood.

Support to young volunteers

In some cases young people get compensated for their voluntary work by the organization they work for. Also, under certain conditions they are exempted from paying income tax. Information about working as  a volunteer and taxes can be found on the website of the Tax and customs administration (Belastingdienst).

Target groups

At national level Dutch government has made efforts to promote the opportunities and benefits of volunteering among all young people. There are no measures taken to enhance the participation of specific groups of young people in voluntary activities.