Provisional Legislative Council

Welfare Services Panel Meeting on
12 December 1997

Employment Situation of Fresh Social Work
Graduates in 1997


This paper informs Members of the employment situation of social work students who graduated earlier this year. The data has been provided by some of the tertiary institutions. It also outlines the mechanism by which the manpower projection exercise for social work personnel is conducted. This is undertaken on an annual basis by the Government and the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS).

Employment Situation of Social Work Graduates

2.According to statistics recently obtained from tertiary institutions, there are 367 and 534 full time social work degree and diploma graduates in 1997 respectively. However, as statistics on the employment situation of students of a few tertiary institutions are not available, we can only have a general idea of the current situation based on the information provided by some of these institutions. Together, these institutions account for 181 degree graduates (representing about half of the total). We have also obtained similar statistics on 358 diploma graduates (representing 67% of the total) this year.

3.Of the 181 degree graduates, around 80% have already acquired a job, of which half (70) have joined the social work profession. As regards the 358 diploma graduates, some 70% (240) have been employed as Social Work Assistants. Another 16% (57) have taken up employment for which social work qualifications are not a prerequisite.

4.It therefore appears from the information available, that not all graduates have been able to secure employment at this point in time. It should however be noted that there are many factors which affect employment, such as when students want to start work, whether they wish to pursue their studies or even, to enter the social work field, and when non-governmental organisations need to recruit staff. Some graduates may voluntarily choose not to join the social work field and opt for alternative careers for personal reasons. Others may prefer to enter the social work field at a later stage. For its part, the Government examines the employment situation of fresh social work graduates every year as part of its manpower projection exercise together with the tertiary institutions and the HKCSS. The mechanism for conducting this projection exercise is set out in the following paragraphs.

Manpower Projection Exercise

5.Recognising the importance of sufficient manpower for the development of social welfare services, a Social Welfare Manpower Planning System (SWMPS) was established in 1987 to maintain up-to-date data on the demand and supply of trained social work personnel. The SWMPS is maintained by the Social Welfare Department (SWD), on the advice of the Joint Committee on SWMPS comprising representatives from SWD and the Hong Kong Council of Social Service.

6.As part of the annual updating exercise, all organisations employing social workers (including the SWD, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and tertiary institutions) are requested to provide statistical information on social work personnel working for them to the SWD. Information such as the estimated supply of and demand for, social workers in the coming years, the wastage and non-entry rates are all relevant factors in the projection exercise. The projections are then reported to the Advisory Committee on Social Work Training and Manpower Planning as well as the Social Welfare Advisory Committee for advice.

7.The manpower projection exercise involves a number of variables. The annual supply is calculated by aggregating the current strength of social workers and the number of graduates for the year, taking into account the number of non-entrants. The projected new demand is estimated on the basis of the net additional staff requirements and replacement for wastage.

Projected supply of graduates

8.The number of fresh graduates for each year of the projection period is estimated on the basis of information provided by the tertiary institutions, taking account of the latest available information on the actual intake for all training courses in the social work discipline. The likely number of drop-outs during the year, based on historical trends, will be factored in.

Projected new demand

9.In the recent updating exercises conducted in 1995 and 1996, the estimated number of net additional staff required for the first two years has been based on planned and funded projects. Demand for later years during the period is estimated on the basis of the " population/service growth approach " . For population-based services (e.g. children and youth services), growth in manpower demand is estimated according to the growth rate of the target population; while for those which do not have a population standard (e.g. rehabilitation and probation services), demand is computed on the basis of the average growth of the service in the past six years.

Projected wastage rates

10.There have been considerable fluctuations in wastage rates over the past few years. The projected wastage rates on strength for the Social Work Officer (SWO) grade and for the Social Work Assistant (SWA) grade adopted in the 1996 exercise were 4.6% and 11.7% respectively. These wastage rates are calculated by averaging the actual rates over the past three years. The actual wastage rates, however, have dropped to relatively low levels in recent years. In the case of the SWO grade, the rate has fallen from 6.8% in 1992/93 to 2.1% in 1996/97. For the SWA Grade, the respective figures are 11.6% and 8.1%.

Projected non-entry rates

11.Non-entry rates are also taken into account when projecting the supply of social work personnel. For manpower projection purposes, non-entry rates on supply should only take into account voluntary non-entrants. Whether graduates join the social work field also depends on a variety of factors including their career aspirations, the prevailing economic environment, availability of social work posts and attractiveness of other jobs in the labour market. In addition, involuntary non-entrants seem to be inevitable when there is a surplus in the supply of degree graduates.

Review of projection method

12.Manpower projections are made on the basis of past trends which vary from time to time and are sensitive to circumstantial factors such as wastage rates of serving workers, voluntary non-entrants, supply from overseas returnees and the general economic situation. We continuously review the projection methodology and examine ways of improving its accuracy. But in the final analysis, it can only be an estimation. In the case of the 1997 graduates, the supply and demand figures were calculated in 1991 as part of the 1992-5 University Grants Committee (UGC) triennium funding exercise.

Commitments of the Government

13.As regards the demand for social workers, the Government has, in the past few years, continued to increase the resources allocated to the welfare sector. This year, we are spending over $19.5 billion, in terms of recurrent funding, on welfare services which represents real growth of 9.4% compared with the previous year.

14.We envisage that 122 and 165 new SWO and SWA grade posts will be created in the welfare sector in 1998/99 respectively. Non-government organisations will be given prior notification, as in the past, of the new services or projects allocated to them so as to facilitate early staff recruitment.

15.Insofar as the supply of social work personnel is concerned, the UGC-funded institutions follow a triennial planning cycle to coincide with the recurrent grant allocation exercise. The UGC is currently reviewing the institutions' academic proposals for the 1998-2001 triennium. We are also in close liaison with the Education and Manpower Bureau to work out plans for the coming triennium in order to ensure a better match in supply and demand in the social work discipline.

Health and Welfare Bureau
December 1997