International Youth Day 2020: Youth Engagement and Volunteering in Canada

August 12, 2020

The theme of this year’s International Youth Day on August 12, “Youth Engagement for Global Action,” provides an opportunity to highlight the ways in which youth mobilize and contribute to their communities. Young people’s voices and actions help to shape processes and institutions at the local, national and global levels.

Community initiatives in response to COVID-19 have included doing grocery and supply runs for seniors and other at-risk populations, cooking meals, sewing masks and providing emotional support through online platforms.

Among surveyed volunteers in 2018, iGen (born in 1996 and later) had the highest rate of formal volunteering across all generations in Canada. With the transition to distance learning and restrictions of activities, increased free time heightens the potential of youth giving back. Moreover, the limited volunteer opportunities for older and vulnerable populations, due to self-isolation, positions youth as integral to the public health response. The future of community well-being overall will also rely on youth-driven input and initiatives.

Canadians are invested in optimizing community well-being

  • Among volunteers in Canada who were surveyed between May 27, 2020 and June 12, 2020, 20% were non-active prior to COVID-19 and 16% cited volunteering for the first time because of the pandemic.1
  • More than 1 in 5 (22%) surveyed volunteers have helped out in their neighbourhood during COVID-19, which is comparable with the proportion who had helped prior to March 2020 (25%). This is the only volunteer activity that has remained fairly stable pre-March 2020 and during COVID-19.2
  • The most common inspiration reported by those volunteering during COVID-19 is wanting to support their community knowing that some volunteers are unable to do so (60%).3

Being comfortable using technology to volunteer, having access to technology or having more time to volunteer now are the most common factors in giving volunteers the ability to volunteer during COVID-19.4 With nearly 100% of youth in Canada using technology on a daily basis, they are clearly a well-equipped group to stay connected and engaged.5 Indeed, youth have been utilizing technology to share public health information in engaging and creative ways.6

Youth in Canada are socially engaged

  • In 2018, iGen contributed an average of 82 unpaid hours to charitable organizations and had the highest volunteer rate (52%), highlighting an important connection to the work of charities, non-profits and community groups.7
  • About 2/3 of youth (67%) are members of a group, organization or association.8
  • Among surveyed youth in 2019, about half (48%) reported that they volunteer, and 71% said that they gave to a charitable or non-profit organization.9


  1. Volunteer Canada, “The Volunteering Lens of COVID-19,” Volunteer Canada, Ipsos and Volunteer Management Professionals of Canada (July 7, 2020). Link:
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Statistics Canada, “What Matters to Canadian Youth?” A Portrait of Canadian Youth (March 2019). Link:
  6. United Nations, “International Youth Day 12 August” (2020). Link:
  7. Tara Hahmann, Valerie du Plessis and Patric Fournier-Savard, “Volunteering in Canada: Challenges and Opportunities During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” StatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada (June 26, 2020). Link:
  8. Statistics Canada, “What Matters to Canadian Youth?”
  9. Ibid.
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