BEIJING, Nov. 9 (Xinhuanet) -- New jobs are on offer. And there are 1.8 million of them.
As part of a government plan, 2 million qualified social workers will be employed on the mainland by the end of 2015, said a Ministry of Civil Affairs official on Tuesday.
To ensure that happens, the government intends to adopt payment guidelines and other motivation policies.
"China lacks the number of social workers it must have to meet the public's increasing needs," said Huang Shengwei, chief of the ministry's first social work division. "And currently, most social workers have not received professional training."
Incomplete statistics from the ministry show that there are about 200,000 social workers in the Chinese mainland. Of them, though, only about a quarter have passed the exams they must take to be licensed to do social work.
Most social workers are concentrated in Beijing, Shanghai and other big cities, while vast rural expanses, especially those in the country's center and west, are home to hardly anyone in that line of work, Huang said at a news conference held in Beijing.
Every year, 250 higher educational institutions in China graduate about 10,000 students who majored in social work. In 2006, nearly 60 percent of them chose to work in other occupations, although fewer and fewer are making the same decision every year, Huang said, citing surveys conducted by the Ministry of Education.
Social workers' low incomes and the lack of promotion opportunities that they have are the causes of many graduates' decisions to pursue different careers.
"I earn about 2,000 yuan ($316) a month, so I still have to turn to my parents for money to pay for my living expenses," said Peng Bin, who has been a social worker for 15 months in the Haidian district in Beijing.
"There is little chance to get promoted and you probably can work your whole life as a social worker without making much progress in your career," the 26-year-old woman said.
Ellen Friedman, a visiting scholar who taught social work at Sun Yat-sen University from 2006 to 2010, said "very few" of her students who majored in social work end up working as social workers.
"Many students told me that their parents did not support their idea to be social workers," Friedman said.
She said parents are often concerned because social work is still a new field in China, one that is not well known to the public.
Friedman said the salary for social workers in Guangdong province is "going up steadily", since many nongovernmental organizations find it difficult to employ the number of talented workers that they need.
Being a social worker in Guangdong can now give an undergraduate with a bachelor's degree a monthly income of 3,500 yuan, Friedman said.
The central government, recognizing the difficulties social workers face, has decided to offer them assistance.
According to a circular released by 18 central governmental departments this month, it has pledged to ensure they have more professional training and education opportunities.
The notice also required local governments to put more financial support toward training social workers.
Local government departments could purchase the services of charitable and nonprofit organizations, thus encouraging the employment of more social workers.