New national human rights plan emphasizes role of social workers

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In the past couple of years, the government has increasingly put forward new documents and favourable policies to encourage the development of the social work sector, with an emphasis on creating space for social workers to become more engaged in solving emerging social issues. Social work was also included in the 2021 Government Work Report following vigorous debate among officials and a promise from the government to promote the role of social workers in more unconventional areas, such as rural development and youth growth and development.

On Sept 9, the State Council Information Office released China’s new national Human Rights Action Plan 2021-2025 which has eight sections covering goals and tasks to achieve in areas such as environmental rights, the rights of particular groups (ethnic minority groups, women, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities) and participation in global human rights governance. In both the second section, “Civil and Political Rights”, and the fourth section, “Protecting the Rights of Particular Groups”, social workers are explicitly mentioned in the document.

Unlike the 2021 Government Work Report, support for social workers in the new Human Rights Action Plan covers only two areas of society: social governance and elderly care. In detail, Article 6 of Section ll stipulates that market entities, new social groups, social workers and volunteers will be supported to take part in social governance, and that channels of participation will be properly guided and regulated. And Article 4 of Section lV stipulates that at least one social worker must be trained for every thousand elderly people, ensuring the elderly in both urban and rural areas are able to benefit from care services.