Running Head: The Recruitment and Retention of Singapore’s Social Workers.
The Social Worker in Singapore’s Voluntary Welfare Organisations
Diploma in Organisational Psychology – Organisational Development
In recent months, the Social Service sector has received much limelight. Much attention is on this sector because our government has realized that with the falling birth rates and a rapidly ageing population, there is a growing social need to reach out to the less fortunate. Realising the problem, several ministers have weighed in with some strategic changes to this sector. To mitigate the shortage of Social Workers, as similar to all other service-intense industry, is to import foreign talents. With the recent untimely revision of Ministry of Manpower (MOM) rules on foreign skilled labour, adjustment of minimum monthly salary of new E-pass holders will be raised from $3,000 to $3,300 starting next year, does not bode well for the recruitment of these professionals. *From August 2014, organisations with more than 25 employees must advertise a vacancy for professional or managerial jobs paying less than S$12,000 a month on a new jobs bank administered by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency for at least 14 days. Only after that period can the company apply for an employment pass to bring in a foreign national. Reuters – Mon, Sep 23, 2013 12:10 AM EDT
One may argue that instead of issuing an E-pass to a foreigner who wishes to take up the role of a Social Worker here, an S-pass may be considered. Because of the Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC) of 15% for service industries stipulated by MOM, many Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) find it difficult to conform to this ratio as current salaries offered are below market rates. Shortage of staff for these organisations often lead to them looking beyond our shore for recruitment. *Today, salary levels of various social service professionals lag that of their peers in other sectors. Although there is a revision to their wages by a median of 8% between October and December last year, it still lags behind the private sector- (The Straits Times, 29th Jun 2013).
*Currently, there are about 1,400 registered social workers and social service practitioners and there is an estimated annual shortfall of about 150 social workers (The Straits Times, 29th Jun 2013). The challenge that many VWOs face is the recruitment and retention of these professionals. With the recent tightening of foreign skilled workers, the alternatives are getting less and less. As in Kurt Lewin’s model of the ‘Unfreezing’ phase, one way is to change public perception of the stigma often attached to Social Workers. It is often thought that for a person who has chosen this line of work pay is not the motivation, rather by their desire to serve the community. But why should their choice of career be penalized by limited or non-existing career progression, unattractive salaries and restrictive career mobility?
Based on Lewin’s second phase of his model, ‘Moving’, to recruit more committed, qualified and skilled social service workers, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, speaking at the official opening of the Social Service Institute on 29th Jun 2013, strongly urged the social service sector to do more to raise the salaries for these professionals, to better recruit and retain them. *Also, to dispel the old stigma on this profession, factoring in future evolutions of salary revisions and funding models, a summary of recommendations can be put forward for consideration: 1. Public education
a. To help the public understand what Social Work is;
b. To improve the number of majors in Social Work;
c. To improve public understanding that resourcing manpower is closely tied to outcomes of clients and thereby to improve willingness by donors to allocate funds towards manpower wages and benefits;
2. Formal education and...
References: Reuters – Mon, Sep 23, 2013 12:10 AM EDT, reported by Kevin Lim, edited by Richard Borsuk. Retrieved from:
Funding & Remuneration in Social Services- 18th Feb. 2011, an article by Irene Y.H. Ng and Helen Sim from The Department of Social Work in National University of Singapore. Retrieved from:
Occupational Wages by Industry (2012) Retrieved from: http://stats.mom.gov.sg/Pages/Occupational-Wages-Tables-2011.aspx
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