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3 Mln Social Workers Needed
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At least 3 million professional social workers are needed in the public service, welfare and community sectors to help establish a civic society, experts have said.

Xu Ruixin, director of the China Association of Social Workers, said: "Social work in China is in its infancy. It will take years to realize this goal."

Xu was speaking in Beijing yesterday at a forum entitled "China's Social Work and a Harmonious Society".

Although social work has been widely discussed for many years, the term remains little known in society, with Shanghai boasting just a handful of qualified personnel, Xu said.

But a turning point was reached last year when the central government called for the building-up of a significant pool of talent in the sector, he said.

"This attention given to social work by the authorities is unprecedented," Xu said.

Last July, the government issued a regulation on the certification of social workers and the first professional examinations will be held in October.

Demand for skilled, professional social workers is growing rapidly, Xu said. To meet that demand, more college students must be encouraged to major in the subject, he said.

Currently, more than 10,000 social work students graduate every year from 200 universities across the country. But an underdeveloped industry has hindered their ability to find suitable positions, Xu said.

Wu Zhongmin, a director at the party school of the Central Committee, said it was therefore vital to develop governmental and associated resources that are engaged in social work.

Many government-backed organizations such as the All China Women's Federation have large mulitilevel networks and can lead the way in developing a national framework for social work, he said.

Deng Guosheng, an associate professor at Tsinghua University's school of public policy and management, said it was also important to promote and nurture awareness of social work among the public and government officials.

(China Daily June 18, 2007)

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