China’s social workers set for bigger role in society

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China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs plans to reform the social work profession, speed up personnel training, and increase the number of people able to benefit from social services, according to an announcement by Chen Jun, deputy director of the Department of Philanthropy Promotion and Social Work of the Ministry of Civil Affairs during a press conference held on Nov 5.

The number of applicants for the 2021 national social worker exam, held from Oct 16 to 17, jumped to a record high of 829,000 — an increase of 36 percent compared to the previous year. As of this year, more than 660,000 people nationwide have obtained professional qualification certificates to work as social workers, more than 440,000 professional social work positions have been created, and over 13,000 social work service organizations have been established, according to Chen.

Chinese social workers operate across a number of fields including social welfare, the voluntary sector, social assistance, community development, hygiene and health, emergency response, correction and education, drug control and rehabilitation. He stressed their important role in helping to solve social problems.

Chen also highlighted the achievements of social workers in fighting poverty, implementing the strategy of rural revitalization, and the battle against Covid-19, during which over 200,000 social workers across the country provided services for tens of millions of people, including by staffing mental health hotlines.

While further expanding the team of social work professionals, Chen said the Ministry of Civil Affairs had proposed three goals going forward.

First and foremost, the ministry will push for the scientific, institutional, and standardized development of social work skills, actively promoting national legislation on social work, clarifying social workers’ responsibilities and rights via laws and regulations, standardizing their professional ethics, and gradually establishing laws, policies and standards throughout the social work system.

Another goal is to speed up personnel training and work with education departments to actively develop social work education with academic degrees, strengthen the development of a social work discipline system, and guide college graduates majoring in social work to seek jobs or start businesses at the grassroots level. In addition, the government plans to increase systematic professional training for personnel directly engaged in providing social services in urban and rural communities and related institutions, while working to expand the number of professionals and optimize their structure.

The last goal is to expand the range of duties carried out by social workers, including enabling them to help the mentally ill, rehabilitate the disabled, provide education and counseling, offer assistance to workers, tackle crime, mediate disputes, and respond to emergencies. This change is designed to help expand the profession from only focusing on those with special needs to all members of society.