If you live in Myanmar you are much more likely to give money to charity than if you live in China.
That’s according to the 2016 Global Civic Engagement Report by Gallup, which lists Myanmar as the most generous country, and China as the least.
The report was based on a survey which asked 145,000 people in 140 countries whether they had donated money to charity, volunteered their time to an organization, or helped a stranger in need within the past month.
The most popular form of civic engagement was helping a stranger or someone they didn’t know. Almost one in four respondents, 44%, said they had done so in the last month.
Fewer than one in three, 27%, said they had donated money, and even fewer, one in five, or 20%, had volunteered their time.
If you transpose the figures onto the global population you’ll see that, in 2015, 2.2 billion had helped a stranger in need in the past month, nearly 1.4 billion had donated money to a charity, and almost 1 billion had volunteered their time to an organization.
However, some countries were far more generous than others.
Among the top 10 most generous countries are the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Indeed, the study found a strong correlation between the per capita GDP of a country and how civic-minded its citizens are.
That said, not all of the top 10 countries could be considered wealthy. Sri Lanka, which came in fifth behind New Zealand, and Indonesia, which was in seventh place, ahead of the United Kingdom, both have middle-income status.
Among the least generous were Greece, Yemen and the Palestinian Territories – all of which have suffered economically or are suffering conflict. The report also looked at the correlation between the economic and political conditions of the countries that gave and the amounts they gave. It found that many of the populations that are least civically engaged are those that have suffered economic and political upheaval.
Within the individual questions, the answers varied. The people most likely to help a stranger were in Libya, 79%; Somalia, 77%; and Malawi, 75%. The least likely were in China, 24%; Cambodia, 25%; and Japan, 25%.
The countries where people were most likely to volunteer time to an organization were Turkmenistan, 60%; Myanmar, 55%; and Indonesia, 50%.
The countries where people are most likely to donate money are Myanmar, 91%; Indonesia, 75%; and Australia, 73%. The least likely were Morocco, 4%; Yemen, 5%; and China 6%.
What are people’s motivations for helping?
Myanmar has a strong Buddhist tradition, which encourages donating and volunteering. The country came first or second in all three categories, with a massive 91% of people in Myanmar saying they donated money to charity.
The case for China is an interesting one. Despite having the world’s second largest population of billionaires, with 335 calling it home according to the 2015 Forbes China Rich List, the Chinese are ranked among the least generous in all categories.
Part of the reason, according a report by the UN, is that China has not historically had philanthropy as part of its culture. Those wishing to set up a charitable foundation face a mountain of paperwork, and recent scandals involving public charities have made the general public less trusting of them.
However, it does look like things are changing. At the end of 2015 there were over 4211 foundations in China, a 60% increase from just five years ago, and the UN says that data show that the overall number of citizens who decide to donate to charity is growing every year.
Why is civic engagement important?
The Gallup report says that encouraging citizens to share responsibility for the problems facing their communities and getting them to participate in solving them is one of the most important tasks for global leaders.
When leaders understand what motivates people to invest their time, effort and talent to benefit strangers, they create “massive economic value and enormous reserves of well-being for everyone involved,” it concludes.