If generosity seems a little lacking these days, it’s because it probably is. According to the latest annual World Giving Index by the international Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), the trend for charitable behaviors is declining. The 2017 index released in September of last year reveals a global decrease in giving, particularly in the areas of donating money and helping a stranger.

The index has been published every year since 2010 with the goal of providing insight into the nature of giving behavior across the globe. It measures giving across 139 countries – which represents 95% of the world’s population – across three categories: helping a stranger, donating money to charity and volunteering time to an organization. The findings presented in the eighth edition of the 2017 CAF World Giving Index are based on surveys of more than 146,000 people conducted during 2016.

The key findings of the 2017 report include:

  • Global giving is down. Donating money and helping a stranger categories fell by 1.8% since the 2016 report, and volunteering dropped by 0.8%. The percentage of people donating money is the lowest in three years.
  • Myanmar ranks number one in the giving index for the fourth year running, continuing to disrupt the widespread assumption that higher wealth leads to more generosity. In the case of Myanmar where the majority of the population are Buddhist, frequent acts of giving to support a monastic lifestyle is very common. This is likely why Myanmar also took the top spot for donating money.
  • While Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) was the most generous continent at 57%, all continents except for Africa scored lower than their five-year averages, with Asia showing a decline in all three categories. Africa, on the other hand, has gone against the global trend with an increase of two percent overall and higher percentages across all three giving categories compared to its five-year average.
  • The giving index of all Western countries in the top 20 have decreased by 1 – 5% on last year.
  • Yemen ranked last of all the surveyed countries with only 3% donating money, 6% volunteering and 31% helping a stranger.



Top 10 Most Generous Countries

  1. Myanmar                     65%
  2. Indonesia                     60%
  3. Kenya                          60%
  4. New Zealand                57%
  5. United States              56%
  6. Australia                      56%
  7. Canada                        54%
  8. Ireland                         53%
  9. United Arab Emirates 51%
  10. Netherlands                51%


Top 10 Countries For Helping a Stranger

  1. Sierra Leone                81%
  2. Iraq                              78%
  3. Libya                            77%
  4. Kenya                          76%
  5. Liberia                         75%
  6. Kuwait                         74%
  7. United States              73%
  8. Uganda                        73%
  9. South Africa                 72%
  10. Saudi Arabia                71%


Top 10 Countries For Donating Money

  1. Myanmar                     91%
  2. Indonesia                     79%
  3. Malta                           73%
  4. Iceland                        68%
  5. Thailand                       68%
  6. New Zealand                65%
  7. Netherlands                64%
  8. United Kingdom          64%
  9. Australia                      63%
  10. Canada                         61%


Top 10 Countries For Volunteering

  1. Indonesia                     55%
  2. Kenya                          51%
  3. Myanmar                     51%
  4. Liberia                          46%
  5. Tajikistan                     44%
  6. New Zealand                41%
  7. United States              41%
  8. Sierra Leone                41%
  9. Mauritius                     40%
  10. Australia                      40%


10 Least Generous Countries

  1. Yemen                         13%
  2. China                           14%
  3. Lithuania                      16%
  4. Morocco                      18%
  5. Georgia                        18%
  6. Cambodia                    18%
  7. Madagascar                 18%
  8. Serbia                          18%
  9. Latvia                           18%
  10. Mauritania                   18%



Other significant findings include giving behavior by gender and age. When it came to gender, the survey found both sexes were less likely to help a stranger than in previous reports. Men still ranked higher than women for this behavior, and the gap between genders widened globally to 4%. Although there was little difference between the genders in donating money with men donating at a rate of just 0.4% more than women, in the countries where more women were donating than men such as Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Australia and New Zealand, the women gave significantly more than their male counterparts. Perhaps most interesting are the findings for volunteering. Men and women are equally likely to volunteer in the developed world, but in developing and transitional economies, the gap widens by 3 – 6 percentage points.

Differences in giving behavior by age group were also noted. While a decrease in helping a stranger was reported across all age groups, it was largest in those over fifty years old. Conversely, the over 50s were the age group most likely to have donated money, although the decline in donation behavior was also highest in this group at 2.18% compared to just 0.58% for those 15-29 years of age. With volunteering time to an organization, those same 15-29 year olds have maintained their score since 2013 and were the only group that did not see a decline during 2016. The largest drop at the global level for volunteering in 2016 was seen in the 30-49 year old age group.

Despite the global decline in generosity, the rise across all three giving measures in Africa for the second year in a row is thrilling news for charities, the hope of course being that as economic development continues to lift people out of poverty, the more people will want and be able to give back. This is despite the CAF World Giving Index data eschewing the purported link between wealth and generosity, with only six members of the G20 ranking in the top 20 most generous countries, and four of those (United Kingdom, Australia, Canada the United States) reporting decreases in giving behavior.

What this means for the millions of needy people worldwide is unclear. One year of reported decrease in global generosity doesn’t necessarily signal the beginning of a major decline, and for the sake of every community across the world, let’s hope it isn’t.

Want to be more charitable? Learn more about different types of charitable organizations and how to choose one. There are also many ways you can be charitable without donating money or if you’re just getting started, find out why giving is important as well as the personal benefits to you.