China / Society

Volunteers to get central grading

By He Dan in Beijing and Shi Yingying in Shanghai (China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-04 22:37

The work of millions of volunteers across the nation will be recorded and graded in a central database by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, an official said.

The star-based grading system, with five stars denoting exemplary work, is set to be launched by 2015.

"It will be initially tested in 136 pilot areas over the next two years, and if everything goes smoothly it can be rolled out across the country," said Li Hongmei, director of the No 2 social division of the Ministry of Civil Affairs' department of social workers.

There are an estimated 60 million registered volunteers on the Chinese mainland, she said on Tuesday, the eve of International Volunteer Day.

It will be mandatory for public service, philanthropic and volunteer organizations selected for the pilot project to record and evaluate volunteers' services, which will then be uploaded into the ministry's database.

Volunteer work is currently graded by different government and social organizations, Li said.

"That's one reason for the ministry to introduce the recording and grading policy," she said. "But our purpose is also to better protect the rights of volunteers and encourage volunteerism."

Organizations that use volunteers should record the number of hours and evaluate the quality of work, according to draft regulations issued by the ministry in September.

The draft introduced a grading system that rates volunteers by five levels depending on the number of hours worked.

Individuals who have a record of 100 voluntary hours will be rated one-star; 300 hours as two-star; 600 hours as three-star; 1,000 hours as four-star and 1,500 hours as five-star volunteers.

"We'll strengthen cooperation with different government bodies to guarantee rights, for example, promoting insurance against personal injury," Li said.

The draft also suggests employers and academic institutions favor volunteers with good records.

For 21-year-old college student Ruan Dixiang, who was a volunteer for Shanghai Expo and the 2011 Shanghai World Swimming Championships, a recording and grading system makes good sense. "I heard colleges in the United States value community service by students," she said.

The grading can also be used to boost job prospects, she said.

Three Shanghai districts — Xuhui, Minhang and Pudong — as well as the city's social welfare center are included in the 136 trial areas.

Shanghai started to keep records on volunteer registration as early as 2007 but again these were kept by different organizations, said Xie Jiachen, who is in charge of the social welfare and volunteer service division at the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.

Two of the city's major volunteer networks — Shanghai Volunteer and Shanghai Community Volunteer Service Network — have a total of 2.4 million volunteers, according to their websites.

The draft suggests that volunteers get free or discounted access to museums, public libraries and tourist attractions.

Recording and grading the work of volunteers will boost organizations that use volunteers, said Gu Lida, who runs a volunteer program at Rockbund Art Museum, a contemporary art museum at the northern end of the historic Bund.

"It's totally natural to lose a volunteer for any organization as it's unpaid work, but the grading will help my colleagues and I to have a more careful reading of the figures and find ways to improve the situation," he said, adding that Rockbund Art Museum is mainly run by over 100 volunteers.

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