Corporate Communications / Christian Service News
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Christian Service News

Issue 59 (April 2008)

Chief Executive's Column

Social Work Profession in Mainland China

Ng Shui Lai

The development of social work profession is relatively new in Mainland China.

In 1988 China Education Authority approved social work and social administration as a discipline to be taught in post secondary institutions and the development of professional social work in modern Chinese history hence started.

Since then, social work education developed rapidly. By now, there are more than 200 social work training programs in universities and colleges. The China Association of Social Work Education was established in 1994. On the other hand, the development of social work practice is very slow and encounters many difficulties. The public knows very little about social work and at times has misconceptions about the profession. Most people mix up social workers and volunteers. There are no social work jobs as such. The content of social work practice is not yet defined. Although there is a China Association of Social Workers, which is also a member of the International Federation of Social Workers, social work practice is only in its very beginning stage in a few big cities such as Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Not until October 2006 when government confirmed in its policy statement to build up social work manpower in order to contribute to social development that social work practice got its momentum to move forward.

A system for accreditation of social workers has been established and the first nation-wide examination has been scheduled for the coming June. A number of cities such as Shenzhen have started pilot projects to establish social work posts in various government departments and communities. Human resource policies for social workers were also formulated.

Accreditation of social workers is just one of the important areas to develop the social work profession. There are 2 other important areas. First, what is the role of government in providing social welfare service and what will be the delivery system? Second, it seems that the government is trying to buy services rather than provide them directly but the issue is whether there are suitable providers. This will be related to government policy on the development of the third sector.

The development of social work profession is not just an issue within the professionals but is very much related to the whole issue of social reform in Mainland China.