Social work in social change: the profession and education of social workers in South Africa
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This study forms part of a series of studies on professions and professional education being conducted by the HSRC's research programme on Education, Science & Skills Development. It follows a pilot study on medical doctors, published in 2006 entitled Doctors in a Divided Society: The profession and education of medical practitioners in South Africa.
Like the other studies in the series, this study involved developing an understanding of the professional milieu and professional labour market of social workers. As the implementers of government social policy, social work professionals have been at the forefront of grappling with the practicalities of the changes in focus, approach and methods of social security and social service delivery since 1994.
It examines developments in the education and training of social workers within the democratic dispensation, the most significant of which is the development of a national, standardised Bachelor of Social Work degree. The study also reveals that the dominant profile in student enrolment and graduation statistics has changed from white female to African female, and that enrolment has increased significantly.
However, the study also shows that graduation trends have been negative and losses due to emigration are an additional concern. Given the scarcity of these professionals against the demand for their services, understanding the factors that contribute to this picture are critical to effective intervention.