In the summer of 2019 Lana and Dave stood outside the family home they had lovingly built, as fire raged around them.
Coming to terms with the fact that they had lost the fight to save their home, the couple noticed their elderly neighbour Joyce, who was still battling high winds and thick smoke... with her garden hose.
Lana and Dave dropped everything to run to her aid, bundling her into their car and driving to the safety. No doubt saving her life.
Helping is a defining part of who we are. We’ve seen it through disasters, wars and even pandemics.
When faced with a crisis, or someone in need, Australians can’t help, but help.
Australia has long been synonymous with the idea of ‘helping a mate out’. We pride ourselves on our egalitarian nature, the concept of ‘mateship’, and supporting one another even when we ourselves might be in need.
It’s in our DNA.
By our very nature, we Australians aren’t great at talking about how we help and, in many cases, we find it hard to ask for help.
Many of us put it down to being “just what you do”, or thinking that “anyone else would do the same”.
Part of an almost unspoken code of mateship.
But helping one another is what holds our communities together, especially during times of crisis.
Humans are hardwired for help. This inbuilt ability to look out for, as well as rely on one another for help, is central to what makes us human.
Helping a friend move house, dropping off a meal to a neighbour, offering emotional support. The true value of help is made up of millions of small and amazing acts from right across the country.
Intuitively we know these acts of help are valuable. But it is tricky to be able to see this value especially when it’s not given the same prominence or importance as other work in our society.
So, NRMA Insurance embarked on a project to track and then place a value on acts of help, both big and small. Using bespoke research from PwC and multiple studies from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, The Help Economy was born.
And judging by the figures, it's booming.
In short: The Help Economy is the total value of the unpaid work Australians do outside their homes for friends, family and community.
Value is more than just a dollar figure. This survey sought a granular understanding of help across gender, age and state in two main ways - Formal Help and Informal Help.
These are organised acts of help outside your household - such as volunteering in disaster, doing charity work, or coaching the local netball team. We can easily quantify Formal Help, because we already collect data through organisations and the initiatives are often regulated and measured.
These are individual acts of help we provide to people outside our household. Often simple and targeted acts of help that go directly to where the help is needed, things like minding a friend’s child or providing emotional support.
This type of help is a little more difficult to quantify.
The Help Economy means we can pause to examine, understand and place a value on this help.
Formal and Informal Help are fundamentally different. The value of Informal Help is driven by the number of acts. The value of Formal Help by the number of hours.
However, when we measured the Informal Help we give to others...
The Help Economy showed that all those small acts of Informal Help really add up.
By tracking and measuring help at a national and granular level, we gain greater visibility and understanding across gender, age, and state.
The Help Economy also determined that Australians help in different ways, and most of us fit into one of 3 categories.
What type of helper are you?
Warriors are on the frontline— helping with fire, flood and pandemic. The rewards may not come in dollars and cents, but rather in a sense of purpose, camaraderie and adrenalin.
Connectors rally people using their strong relationships, social instincts, and community connections. This group is more likely to be involved in multiple groups based on their social networks.
Worriers are no handbrake on fun. Rather, they prime us for action and have an innate ability to perceive threats more quickly than others.
2020 was a year of enormous challenges, a global pandemic and climate-change, driven natural disasters. The reality is that events like these are only likely to become more and more common.
The inaugural Help Economy report proves that help is a vital resource. And if the current climate of uncertainty is anything to go by, helping others will become increasingly valuable as a resource.
We believe that when The Help Economy flourishes, so does the wellbeing of individuals, communities and society.
This will be at the heart of our resilience as a country and preparedness for the future.
For all our futures.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2019) General Social Survey, available at https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/people-and-communities/general-social-survey-summary-results- australia/latest-release#voluntary-work-and-unpaid-work-support
PwC (2017) Understanding the unpaid economy, available at https://www.pwc.com.au/australia-in-transition/publications/understanding-the-unpaid-economy-mar17.pdf
Salamon L.M. and Sokolowski S.W. (2011). Measuring the economic value of volunteer work globally: concepts, estimates and a roadmap to the future. Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics. 82(3)
Ironmonger D. (2000). Measuring volunteering in economic terms, Chapter 5, pp. 56-72 in J. Warburton and M. Oppenheimer (eds), Volunteers and Volunteering, Federation Press, Leichhardt.
Volunteering Australia (2017) Value of volunteering in Australia, available at https://www.volunteeringaustralia.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Value-of-Volunteering-Support-Services.pdf
Airtasker (2021) Airtasker categories, available at https://www.airtasker.com/categories/
Air Work (2021) List of awards, available at https://www.fairwork.gov.au/awards-and-agreements/awards/list-of-awards
Lyons, M., McGregor-Lowndes, M., and O'Donoghue, P. (2006) Researching giving and volunteering