Student Volunteering in China and Canada:Comparative Perspectives


  • Lesley Hustinx University of Ghent
  • Femida Handy University of Pennsylvania
  • Ram A. Cnaan University of Pennsylvania



civil society, NGOs, volunteering, students, cross-cultural analysis


While many of the theoretical frameworks for volunteering have been developed and empirically tested in the west, our understanding of volunteering in non-Western countries, such as China, is relatively limited. Nevertheless, in recent decades enormous efforts have been made by the Chinese government to encourage and support volunteering among its citizens, especially youth. Chinese youth are volunteering in greater numbers in response to these initiatives. Given the strongly state-led nature of volunteering in China, as opposed to the voluntary, more citizen-initiated nature of volunteering in Western societies, this paper seeks to understand the impact of these contextual differences on student volunteering. Using data from 1892 questionnaires completed by university students in China and Canada, we examine differences in their volunteering. The findings show clearly the impact of the differences in socio-political structures that are reflected in the nature of students’ volunteer participation and perceived benefits.

Author Biographies

Lesley Hustinx, University of Ghent

Asistant Professor Department of Sociology

Femida Handy, University of Pennsylvania

Professor School of Social Policy and Practice

Ram A. Cnaan, University of Pennsylvania

Professor School of Social Policy and Practice