According to Professor HL Fung said that social welfare and social work have been undergone a paradigm shift throughout these years. These changes are including:
The traits of new society
There is a special trait which is calculative rationality in new society. Everything in new society is counted by its profit. Although there are public choices, they are controlled by profit organizations. Due to human’s greedy, there will be anti-welfarism and anti-statism in new society. Governments should generate market systems for public services for example welfare services. However governments are becoming more macroeconomic and controlling their society. Macroeconomic Regulation and Control refers to the use of direct government intervention by the central government of the People’s Republic of China to cool down the overheated economy. Consequently, Labor outsourcings happen in public services meanwhile the service standards turn higher. This is a large limit for social welfare and social work to develop.
The social welfare in new society
In new society, definitions of social welfare are refreshed. There are two definitions on social welfare. They are a state of well-being and relationship between public and personal. For the former, labor power was a stable economic value in past society but it is replaced by technology and knowledge power. It means social basic stratum will lose its income protection. For latter, some countries’ governments shift their policy from risk sharing to personal saving and investing. It means government has few responsibilities to its people. Owing to global economic slowdown and casino capitalism, social protect is becoming a doubt today. In social services, there were universality and comprehensiveness, but now there are selectivity and targeted. When social services are launched by residual model, the social cohesion will be interpreted by economy. New society emphasizes civic right but not patriarchy. There is a hypothesis that believes government and people have a coexistence system. The government, which is generated by civic people, has its duty to manage people. Unfortunately, the economic and greedy reasons break the balances, for instance lowering the quality of generation and freezing the laboring market. Meanwhile, the social welfare changes from non-conditional love to tough love for all citizens. Governments prefer setting harsh minimum requires of social services to avoid abusing.
The social work in new society
When society’s structures change, characters of social work also change. In the past, technical knowledge is elementary for social workers. Practical knowledge is more important than technical knowledge. However, top to bottom flow is not professional for social working. In new society, social workers are demanded to obey orders from their supervisors. Moreover, social workers are limited by utilitarianism and market competition to provide best and fittest services to needy. Therefore, it is not only increasing work loading to social workers but also exploiting rights of social services for people in need. Additional, there is a belief for social workers to advocate new policies against unfair situations in society. Ironically, social workers need to obtain bureaucratic credibility but not street-corner credibility. Consequently, social workers become policies workers. Besides, social workers are expected to show their flexible specialization and strategic alliance for integrated social services nowadays. All in all, social workers are confused and depressed by the changes which are mentioned above. When the beliefs of social work are becoming doubtful, there is a question for all the workers: Is there a future for the ‘professional project’ of social work?
Challenges to social work in the new society
At the beginning of a new century social work hesitates at the crossroads to accept its marginalized and demoralized condition, or to look for a new future and sense of duty (Mark, 2001). As Professor HL Fung’s mention, there are some changes of social work recently. The obvious change is professionalization of social work. It includes challenge against social work’s value and orientation. There are some implications of the changes toward the professionalization of social work in Hong Kong.
Challenges against social work’s value
It is common to know that one of social work’s values is empowerment. Social workers must empower people in need to fight against unfair situations and protect for the welfare what they must have. However, professionalization of social worker makes clients feel disempowered. Clients may become independent because of the high status and professional image of social workers. The uneven status between clients and social workers is unacceptable by social work’s beliefs.
It is found that some social workers prefer working for the government than clients. Since “market” and “contract” programs became main streams in Hong Kong, the relationship between government and social workers is changing from “welfare cooperators” to “business partners”. Social workers are ordered to be policy promoters and welfare keepers for the government to achieve a residual mode.
Challenges against social work’s orientation
Nowadays, globalization affects the whole world including Hong Kong. Many professional occupations are becoming more unstable due to risks of unemployment. The social work services involve with economy and resource. Thus, social workers have to face a realistic problem “It is a difficult question—professionalize its value in the market? Or be replaced by other relevant careers and laymen?”
While professionalization of social work is continuing, the government is setting more limits and interferes toward social work’s structures. It is very awkward that a professional institution loses its own autonomy. There are many performance indicators for the government to access whether a social worker or social service organization services are good or not. Therefore social work services are controlled and also monitored especially when the practical workers advocate for the people who are against the government.
As Professor HL Fung said, the new society in Hong Kong is about programmed society and Marketization. The programmed society emphasizes efficiency and regulation of social welfare but not street-corner credibility. The marketization makes social workers and clients (especially disadvantaged group) have conflicts in benefits. The government wants clients to proof their laboring value for exchanging welfare supports.
Meanwhile, professionalization of social work generates lots of doubts about disempowerment and modeled role. It is concerned that if social workers will betray their belief and value or not. Additional, the new society expects flexible specialization towards social workers. It is doubtless that social workers are facing more difficulties and challenges in its professionalization in new society.
However, if every social worker determines core values and attitudes to service and advocate for disadvantaged clients, disempowerment and corruption will be avoided. It cannot be depended and completed by programmed assessments but appropriate value development during social work’s courses such as social welfare and policy course.
Finally, the multicultural society needs a new openness and greater sensitivity to other value orientations as well as a broader knowledge foundation by its professional workers than is required in a less diverse society (Bente, 2014). It is believed that there is a risk but also a great opportunity for social workers to develop as well as improve themselves.
- Mark Lymbery, Social Work at the Crossroads, The British Journal of Social Work, Volume 31, Issue 3, 1 June 2001, Pages 369–384
- Bø, Bente Puntervold (2014). Social work in a multicultural society: New challenges and needs for competence. International Social Work, 58(4), 562–574. doi: 10.1177/0020872814550114