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Increasing demand of social workers in China


The demand for social workers and a functioning social welfare system is on the rise in China. Within the next ten years, the country expects social workers to comprise over 1.4 million professionals. Swedish researchers from the Department of social work, University of Gothenburg, lead the way by sharing their knowledge on research methods and the academization of social work with Chinese universities.

– Social work is a relatively new phenomenon in China. Today, the country has the largest number of people in the world requiring social assistance. There is a definite need to learn more about social work in China, says Björn Gustafsson, professor in social work at the Department of social work, University of Gothenburg.

Together with Swedish colleagues from the Department of social work, Björn Gustafsson has taken the initiative to cooperate with Fudan University, Shanghai. Among other things, the universities exchange teachers and the University of Gothenburg hosts several Chinese post graduate students on campus. As well, the Department of social work recently arranged a workshop in social work research at the Fudan University, resulting in a special issue of China Journal of Social Work.

– Sweden has a long tradition of social work and Swedish researchers within the field have access to large research databases regarding the different social statuses of households. There is a huge interest in China to learn more about our social welfare system and our scientific research methods, says Björn Gustafsson.

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The transition to a free market economy is part of the reason why China is going through big societal changes, he adds. Since the new millennium, housing as well as work units have become privatized and state-owned enterprises have laid off tens of millions of workers. Unemployment has surfaces as a social problem. As well, many Chinese rural residents now move to urban areas, challenging the social infrastructure, Gustafsson explains.

– It is against such a background that the rapid expansion of a social welfare system, first in the urban areas and more recently in the rural areas, should be seen, says Björn Gustafsson.

When Björn Gustafsson first came to China early in the 90s, he was one of the first western researchers who analyzed the statistics on income distribution and poverty in the country.

– Today, there are many Chinese researchers contributing to both academic literature and policy material, he says.

On May 8th, the Department of social work hosts a release seminar at the University of Gothenburg based on the special issue of China Journal of Social Work. Journalists are welcome to attend the seminar.

For additional information, please contact Björn Gustafsson, professor in social work, the Department of social work, University of Gothenburg, e-mail:, phone: +46-31-786 18 90.

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