The Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, has launched a Swiss campaign to mark the International Year of Volunteers, which has been designated for 2001.
Addressing an audience of 700 people at the launch of the campaign on Tuesday in Bern, Ogi said Swiss people had a long tradition of carrying out voluntary activities.
He added that it was the responsibility of all citizens to become involved: "If everyone were to offer some of their services voluntarily, society would be the stronger for it," he said.
The United Nations decided to dedicate 2001 to volunteers the world over, with a view to encouraging more people to take part.
According to the federal statistics office, one in every four people in Switzerland volunteered their services to an association this year.
On average, people dedicated some 14 hours every month to a non-profit cause. According to Carlo Malaguerra of the Federal Institute of Statistics, the economics of voluntary work are far from insignificant.
He estimates that the amount of work offered corresponds to 44 million hours a month, or the equivalent of the work done by 248,000 full-time employees.
If the people involved were to be paid for their efforts, the cost would be nearly SFr19.5 billion francs a year, the equivalent of five per cent of Switzerland's GDP.
The Swiss umbrella organisation, "iyv-forum.ch", will be leading the International Year of Volunteers campaign in Switzerland.
One of its stated aims is to make voluntary work officially recognized through a nationwide certification process.
swissinfo with agencies