Job prospects for social workers remain positive, especially with the government announcement in its 2011-2012 budget that about 56 per cent of its recurrent expenditure of more than HK$242 billion will be used in three policy area groups, with social welfare being one of them.
Many projects carried out by the Social Welfare Department (SWD) have been expanded. For instance, the Integrated Community Centre for Mental Wellness, launched in Tin Shui Wai in 2009, was rolled out across all 18 Hong Kong districts in 2010-2011.
The SWD has also committed to subsidise non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to help implement the Cyber Youth Outreaching projects on a pilot basis from 2011 to 2014.
With so many ongoing projects, social works graduates don’t have to worry too much about finding a job. However, salaries for social workers may not be as high as before.
For instance, under the lump sum grant subvention system adopted in 2001, NGOs have been receiving SWD funds once a year, unlike in the past when expenses were reimbursed based on accounts presented.
The current one-off payment could mean that funding may not cover all the expenses of an organisation, forcing them to cut costs, with salaries usually being the first to get hit. As a result, social workers get squeezed, which could affect their work.
Cheung Kwok-che, president, Hong Kong Social Workers’ General Union