You don’t have to be wealthy to be generous with your money.
This is the major finding of a new report by American research house, Gallup, which looked at the most generous countries in the world.
The report was based on more than 153,000 interviews with adults across 146 countries over the course of 2018.
On average, more than four in 10 people worldwide said they had helped a stranger or someone they didn’t know who was in need (43%), while far fewer said they had donated money (27%) or had volunteered their time (18%). These figures have been stable for the past decade.
Projected to the entire adult population of the world, this means that billions of people are helping others: In 2017, nearly 1.4 billion had donated money to a charity, almost 1 billion had volunteered their time to an organisation and 2.2 billion had helped a stranger in need in the past month.
Gallup compiles the ‘positive’ responses to these three questions into a Civic Engagement Index score for each country.
The higher the score, the higher the proportion of the population that is civically engaged. The index score for the world overall in 2017 is 30 out of a possible 100.
Country scores ranged widely, from a high of 59 in Indonesia and Australia to a low of 15 in Yemen.
Indonesia and Australia have consistently appeared in the top 10 countries with the highest civic engagement scores in the past several years, and their scores in 2017 were not much different from 2016.
Not always the wealthiest
Although Gallup found a strong connection between the Civic Engagement Index and per capita GDP, the countries with the most civically engaged populations in the world are not always the wealthiest.
Lower-middle-income Indonesia topped the list in 2017, and lower and middle-income countries Kenya and Myanmar also made an appearance among the countries with the highest scores on the index.
Gallup said that Myanmar has been at the top of this list for a number of years because of the country’s strong Buddhist traditions, which stress donating to and volunteering at temples, are usually reflected in the majorities who typically respond positively to each question.
In 2017, this was only true for monetary donations to charity — 88% of Myanmar residents said that they had donated money to a charity -the highest percentage in the world last year.
Most likely to donate money
Myanmar’s consistently high scores on the Civic Engagement Index over the past few years have been bolstered by its nearly universal percentages of adults who reported donating money to charity.
This percentage has been in the low 90% range since 2013 and was 88% in 2017. This is lower than in previous years, but still by far the highest percentage in the world that year.
For the most part, the top of the list looked the same in 2017 as it has for the past several years, with Myanmar, Indonesia and Australia clustered near the top.
Adults worldwide continued to be less likely to give their time (18%) than they were to give their money (27%) or to help a stranger in need (43%).
A majority in just one country, Indonesia, said they had volunteered their time to an organisation in the past month; 53% of Indonesians said they had done this.
The percentage of adults saying they had donated their time to an organisation varied widely around the world, from as high as 53% in Indonesia to as low as 4% in Laos.
Help a stranger
Of all the charitable activities that Gallup asks about, people worldwide continued to be most likely to say they had helped a stranger or someone they didn’t know who was in need (43%).
The percentage saying they had done so in the past month varied worldwide, from a high of 83% in Libya to a low of 18% in Cambodia.
Except for the United States, which narrowly made the list of countries where people are most likely to have helped a stranger in the past month, the countries at the top of this list are all located in North or sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.