China to amass 1.45 million social workers

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An ambitious plan has been formulated by the Chinese government to build an army of 1.45 million social workers by 2020.

"By the end of 2015, licensed social workers will total 500,000, and another 950,000 will be added during 2016-2020," Minister of Civil Affairs Li Liguo told Xinhua, citing the long-term plan (2011-2020) for developing a national social work system.

But China currently has just over 200,000 social workers, according to Li. Therefore to achieve the set goal, China has to nurture an average of 75,000 social workers annually from 2012-2015, and 190,000 annually during 2016-2020, which is far beyond the current capabilities of higher-learning institutes giving social work degrees.

China currently has 320 colleges with undergraduate programs on social work and 60 colleges and academies giving masters degrees in social work, with only 20,000 social workers becoming qualified every year.

"The range of colleges and universities training social workers will be expanded and their training capabilities and scale should be greatly enhanced," the minister explained.

At the same time, China will further improve the occupational appraisal system for social workers, through which Li believes a large number of qualified social workers will come to the fore.

Moreover, the plan has devised three major projects to build 300 key social worker training bases, among which 50 national-level bases will target cultivating 80,000 private social work institutions by 2020.

Over 600 private social work institutions are operating in China, providing services in fields concerning people's livelihood, national unity, community services and criminal rectification, figures from the China Association of Social Workers show.

According to the plan, social service-oriented communities and government organizations should first consider qualified social workers when recruiting staff. They will also be given preference when applying for public servant posts with governments at all levels.

And better pay is promised in order to retain excellent social workers, said Li.

The plan was jointly issued on April 26 by 19 departments, including the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, and the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

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