Manuel Souto-Otero
Technical paper

Volunteering, informal education and youth: concepts, participation and recognition in Spain and the European Union

Manuel Souto-Otero
Europe and Central Asia
Youth and Volunteering

Fast read

  • This article reviews the concept of volunteering and non-formal education.
  • It examines the evolution of the participation of young people in voluntary activities in Spain and in the European Union (EU) in the last 10 years and analyses the social, occupational and educational recognition of the skills acquired through participation in volunteer activities.
  • The article is based on longitudinal data provided by more than 90,000 individuals in five iterations of the Eurobarometer survey, as well as detailed studies on the recognition of non-formal learning in Europe conducted over the past 15 years.


The results suggest a significant increase in the participation of young people in voluntary activities organized in Spain over the last decade, although the rates continue to be below that of other countries in the EU. They also suggest that both Spaniards and Europeans believe that non-formal education can lead to skills development. They also highlight that about a third of Europeans believe skills development can occur within volunteer contexts. Despite this recognition of the role of volunteering in skills development, there are still relatively few initiatives in Spain that grant formal recognition to skills acquired through volunteering.

The article provides decision makers and other actors with new insights and evidence on the role of volunteering in developing the skills of young people. It also recommends the need for certification or other formal means of officially recognizing the skills developed through volunteering.