World Giving Index
The people of some countries around the world are notably generous, and being wealthy is not a requirement. The World Giving Index (WGI) is an annual report published by the Charities Aid Foundation. The world's largest survey of charitable endeavors from around the world, the report examines charitable giving in three categories: donating money, volunteering time, and helping strangers. Of the three giving behaviors, helping a stranger is the most commonly performed worldwide, with more than 2.5 billion people having helped a stranger in the last ten years.
Worldwide Charity Giving in 2020
The 2021 edition of the World Giving Index compiled data on giving during the year 2020, the first year to be drastically impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Compared to previous years, noticeable changes in personal giving behaviors were evident in many countries. The most noticeable change was arguably the United States, which ranked first in the world in giving for the years 2009-2018 but fell to 19th in the world in 2020. However, the U.S. was not the only high-level giver to drop. In fact, many countries that landed in the top 10 most charitable countries in previous years slid completely out of the top 20.
According to Charities Aid Foundation Chief Executive Neil Heslop, these changes are not a sign that people's willingness to donate decreased, but that their opportunity to donate diminished, largely as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns. Charity-based retail stores were forced to close, fundraising events were canceled, and many elderly charity volunteers had to shelter themselves instead of volunteering.
There was also good news. Faith-based giving helped immensely in nations such as Indonesia and Thailand. Similarly, in Africa, the spirit of "ubuntu", which encourages a feeling of human community, inspired great generosity. What's more, the worldwide percentage of people who donated to help a stranger reached 55%, its highest point recorded since the WGI began in 2009.
Top 10 Most Charitable Countries 2009-2018 and 2020
|7||United Kingdom||New Zealand|
Worldwide Charity Giving from 2009-2018
The 2019 World Giving Index report celebrated the index's 10th anniversary by compiling ten years of data (2009-2018), uncovering trends in people's charitable actions through times of economic crisis, economic recovery, and geopolitical unrest. Collectively, the data included more than 1.3 million people from a total of 125 countries. After reviewing ten years of survey data from all across the globe, CAF concluded that no single trait indicates a country's generosity. The top charitable countries represent different levels of wealth, different cultures and religions, and different geographies. For example, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia are all classified by the United Nations as lower-middle-income countries; however, they were also three of the top ten most charitable countries in the world.
Ten of the world's most charitable countries 2009-2018
#1 United States and #2 Myanmar
When data from all ten years was compiled, the United States emerged as the most charitable country, with a score of 58%. Of those surveyed in the U.S. over the ten-year period, 72% reported helping a stranger, 61% reported donating to a charity, and 42% reported having volunteered their time to an organization. Myanmar's overall score of 58% earned it the rank of second-most charitable country in the world. Despite being a lower-middle-income country and relatively low, Myanmar had the highest percentage of people donating to charities at 81%. Myanmar has a high population of Theravada Buddhists for whom small, frequent acts of giving are the norm. In fact, this generosity helped earn Myanmar the #1 spot during the data years 2013-2016, when more than 90% of the country's residents donated money to charitable causes.
#3 New Zealand and #4 Australia
New Zealand was the only country to rank in the top ten for all three giving measures, which resulted in an impressive overall charitable score of 57%. New Zealand ranked ninth for donations (65%), ninth for helping strangers (64%), and sixth for time volunteered (41%). Over the past decade, New Zealand's levels of giving have been relatively stable, ranging between 57% and 61%. New Zealand's neighbor Australia ranked as the fourth-most charitable country in the world, with an overall score of 56%. Australia had the eighth-highest rate of donating to charities of 68% and the ninth-highest rate of helping strangers of 64% (tied with New Zealand and Malawi). Like New Zealand, Australia's level of giving has been relatively stable over the past decade, ranging from 55% to 60%.
#5 Ireland and #6 Canada
Ireland was the highest-scoring European country and earned an overall score of 56%. Of those surveyed, 62% reported helping a stranger, 69% reported donating to a charity, and 38% reported having volunteered their time to an organization. Ireland fluctuated more than other top 10 countries, with levels of giving over the past decade ranging from 53% to 60%. Sixth-place Canada's overall score was 55%, with 63% donating to charities, 64% helping strangers, and 37% volunteering at an organization. Canada's levels of giving have fluctuated significantly over the past decade. From data years 2014 to 2018, Canada's level of giving declined from 60% to 55%.
#7 United Kingdom and #8 Netherlands
The United Kingdom had an overall charitable score of 54% from 2009-2018. The U.K. had the second-highest donation rate of 71%, a helping strangers rate of 60%, and a volunteer rate of 30%. The U.K.'s donation rate comes as no surprise as the country has a long philanthropic tradition. Over the decade measured, the U.K.'s lowest giving level was 50%, and its highest was 57%. The Netherlands was the eighth-most charitable country in the world, with an overall score of 53%. The Netherlands, like the U.K., had the second-highest donation rate in the world of 71%. Over the course of the decade, the level of giving stayed slightly more stable in the Netherlands than in the other high scoring European countries, the U.K. and Ireland, with levels of giving ranging from 51% to 56%.
#9 Sri Lanka and #10 Indonesia
Sri Lanka's overall level of giving was 51%. Sri Lanka had the highest rate of volunteering in the world at 46%. Of those surveyed, 50% of respondents reported donating to a charity, and 55% reported helping strangers. Despite being classified as a lower-middle-income country, Sri Lanka is one of the world's top ten most charitable countries, proving that one need not be wealthy to be generous. Indonesia ranked as the tenth-most charitable country in the world, with an overall level of giving of 50%. Of those surveyed, 69% reported having donated to charities (the seventh-highest rate globally), 42% reported helping a stranger, and 40% reported volunteering at an organization (seventh-highest in the world). Like Myanmar and Sri Lanka, Indonesia's giving is high despite its classification as a lower-middle-income country.
Top 10 Least Charitable Countries 2009-2018 and 2020
|1||China: 16%||Japan: 12%|
|2||Greece: 16%||Portugal: 20%|
|3||Yemen: 17%||Belgium: 21%|
|4||Serbia: 19%||Italy: 22%|
|5||Palestine: 19%||South Korea: 22%|
|6||Lithuania: 19%||Morocco: 23%|
|7||Bulgaria: 19%||Lebanon: 24%|
|8||Montenegro: 20%||Pakistan: 25%|
|9||Croatia: 21%||France: 25%|
|10||Russia: 21%||Latvia: 25%|