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Technical paper

Pacific Economy Research Report on Unpaid Work and Volunteering in Aotearoa

Dr Halahingano Rohorua, Dr Sydney Kingstone, Dr Seini Taufa, Dr Manuila Tausi & Dr ‘Ana Hau’alofa’ia Koloto
Asia and the Pacific
New Zealand
Measurement of Volunteer Work

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The research report explores Pacific perspectives on unpaid work and volunteering and identifies how unpaid work and volunteering contributions enhance wellbeing and economic prosperity in the Pacific.


  • The research was guided by five research questions: 1. What constitutes unpaid work and volunteering in currently available literature and data? 2. What constitutes unpaid work and volunteering from the perspectives of Pacific peoples? 3. How does unpaid work and volunteering contribute to the wellbeing of Pacific peoples and the creation and development of their wealth? 4. How does Pacific unpaid work and volunteering contribute to the Aotearoa economy? 5. What are the impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown on Pacific unpaid work and volunteering?
  • The methodology included quantitative and qualitative data collection, such as 27 focus group discussions and an online survey of 2,000 participants across nine Pacific ethnic communities around Aotearoa (New Zealand). 
  • Data analysis revealed that 97 percent of Pacific peoples spend around 66,035 hours per week on unpaid work and volunteering, equating to an average of 33 hours per week per person. Of this, 44 percent of Pacific peoples contributed a total of $2.4m of their own money to help others over four months, equating to an average of $161 per week per person. 
  • The Western definition and scope of ‘volunteering’ and decisions around the measurement of ‘unpaid work’ more generally was found to not apply to Pacific communities in Aotearoa New Zealand, mainly because the concept of volunteering was found to be embedded in the Pacific culture, and participants often did not associate certain activities that they carry out with volunteering.
  • The findings indicate that current data on Pacific peoples’ involvement in unpaid work and volunteering do not capture the full extent of their involvement in these activities and therefore underestimate the contributions Pacific peoples make to the Aotearoa economy. The findings also show the importance of understanding the diversity of Pacific perspectives given that ‘Pacific’ is an umbrella term for nearly 20 different ethnic communities, each with differing languages, cultures, and worldviews.