Shenzhen, the first mainland city to try a social worker system, is facing a sharp decline in examinations and registrations for social worker positions, indicating a brain drain despite the government’s ambitious plan to bring more social services to communities and enterprises.
In 2008, when the first national examination for social workers was held, Shenzhen attracted 3,961 applicants.
But that number gradually dropped in the following years, to 2,548 potential workers in 2010, Shenzhen Evening News reported yesterday, quoting the Shenzhen Social Workers Association.
Exacerbating the situation, social workers stay at their job for an average of less than two years and about 30 percent of them quit within a year, the association said.
Some social workers cite grueling aspects of the profession. “We are like children without a mother, who are often owed pay and have no reasonable assessments or promotions,” a social worker surnamed Zhu said.
According to industry rules implemented in 2007, the city government pays organizations for social worker services, creating a payment system that can be prone to delays.
“We only earn 3,000 yuan (US$476) a month. Some social service organizations pay part of the salary in advance, which is not enough for rent and food,” Zhu said.
Another social worker, Liu, echoed Zhu’s call for better performance evaluations and promotion opportunities.
“We have no assessment mechanism for the service of social workers, let alone a promotion system based on the assessment,” said Liu, who became a social worker after many years as a psychological counselor.
A survey showed that 90 percent of Shenzhen’s social workers have a bachelor’s degree, but 28.7 percent quit their job within a year because of unsatisfactory pay, owed wages, lack of promotions and disappointment with the industry.
“It’s funny that we still use 2007 salary standards while the CPI has increased so much in five years,” a netizen complained.
Despite the unsolved problems, Shenzhen plans to build 100 community service centers and introduce 500 new social workers to communities and enterprises.
According to Luo Bing, of the Shenzhen Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau’s social work department, the city will then have 6,000 social workers serving communities, enterprises and social institutions.
Luo admitted that brain drain has become a serious problem and social workers’ pay should be improved.
“We are considering a set of assessment standards for social workers and encourage them to take social worker professional examinations for their promotions,” Luo said.
(By Han Ximin)