Social workers: The “uncelebrated” professionals among us

METHODIST College Kuala Lumpur’s inaugural social work virtual forum, ‘Stop Against Social Work’ highlights the vital role that social workers have played – and continue to play – in mitigating biopsychosocial problems in Malaysia.

Among the crucial issues that were discussed at the interactive virtual forum were the stigmas impacting on entry into the social work profession, especially when it comes to a social worker’s low income and the general view of social work as a voluntary role rather than a profession.

“As in all organisations, salaries would differ in accordance with the job scope and responsibilities,” MCKL Head of Department (Diploma in Social Work) Jolyn Hong told FocusM.

Jolyn Hong

“Not all social workers work in a non-governmental organisation (NGO) setting. They can be gainfully employed in many different sectors, and each sector have different job scopes, responsibility and salary scale.”

The idea that social workers earn a minimum wage and would not allow an above-average lifestyle would apply more to the NGO sector which are largely funded by public donations, Hong explained.

“The smaller organisations cannot afford to pay market rates through they are beginning to realise the need for professionally trained social workers. The more ‘wealthy’ NGOs are already accepting the fact that they have to pay for qualified social workers to provide better services.”

According to Hong, in the Government sector, there is already a standard scheme of service and salary scale for graduates on all levels, and therefore, Government social workers are better paid and enjoy perks like medical insurance and loans for purchasing house, car or computer, in comparison to NGO social workers.

Meanwhile, there is also an inaccurate perception that social work was a voluntary role rather than a profession.

“On the contrary, social workers are trained professionals and are guided by a body of knowledge, values and skills.

“These professionals have to adhere to the National Competency Standards for Social Work Practice and Professional Code of Ethics while upholding conduct based on the values of human rights and social justice,” Hong pointed out.

In fact, it is also important to point out that professional social workers are trained in a vast area of knowledge ranging from human behaviour, social policies and law to social methods and interventions from both a theoretical and practical field of work before they can be a qualified and competent social worker.

“Having an accredited social work qualification and training will equip a person to be a competent social worker to meet the needs of vulnerable and marginalised populations,” she concluded. – July 6, 2021.


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