Special Articles / Shankar Pathak / Social Policy, Social Welfare and Social Development
The problem of social welfare manpower has been generally neglected by social welfare administrators and planners, social work educators, and the professional associations, though this should have been a topic of major concern to them. The first serious attempt to study the problem from all aspects, and estimate manpower requirements on the basis of sound principles and reliable, though limited, empirical data was made in 1958-59 by the Study Team on Social Welfare and Welfare of the Backward Classes (Study Team).1 They made a threefold classification of social welfare jobs:
(a) Administrative and Senior Supervisory Category; (b) Intermediate Supervisory Category; and (e) Field Level Workers. They suggested training programmes at three levels: (i) two year post - graduate training, (ii) two-year undergraduate training leading to a bachelor’s degree or, in the alternative, one year training after graduation, and (iii) two-year training after matriculation for the three categories of jobs (a), (b), and (c) respectively.2
The Study Team also made the following estimate of welfare personnel requirements on the basis of the three categories of welfare jobs, by taking into account the existing staff positions at the Centre and the States.3
Subsequently, a Sub-Committee of the Panel on Social Welfare for the Fourth Five Year Plan appointed by the Planning Commission also attempted an estimate of social welfare personnel requirements. This is presented in Table no. 2.
It was an exercise in guess-work. Because, the Sub- Committee had neither sufficient time, nor any empirical data to make a proper study of the personnel requirements.4
The study of “Professional Social Workers in India” by the Indian Council of Social Welfare (ICSW Study) though not aimed at studying the manpower problem, provided some very useful data on certain aspects of employment of professional social workers based on the situation obtaining in 1965-66.5 Gore and Ramachandran, in an unpublished paper written in 1972 discussed the problem of estimating social work manpower by drawing upon the data available till then.6 Their focus was on the requirements of professional social work manpower and their estimates are given in Table No.3.
Recently, a study of social work manpower in Bombay (Bombay Study) has been completed by Ramachandran which has a limited coverage of 123 agencies out of an estimated 1200 welfare agencies in Bombay.7 Five more studies of social welfare man power requirements have been sponsored by the Department of Social Welfare, Government of India. They cover Delhi, U.P., Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and West Bengal. Of these, the first three studies have been published.
It is obvious and well known that the study of the problem of social welfare manpower requirements in India suffers from several limitations like the lack of firm data, uncertainty regarding future demand in the absence of advance knowledge of programmes sanctioned in the annual or five year plans and their staffing pattern, identification of social welfare jobs, job specifications, the levels of training required etc. It is for these reasons than the Study Team very wisely desisted from attempting the projection of requirements of welfare personnel for the Third Five Year Plan and only made an estimate of jobs in position. Like the metereologist, who can forecast accurately yesterday’s rather than the next day’s weather, we are told that in the field of man- power planning it is possible to make a reliable estimate of present demand on the basis of existing jobs and almost impossible to make a forecast of future demand.8 I shall use the available data to hazard some guesses of social welfare manpower requirements in India.
Theoretical Approaches to Manpower Assessment
Theoretically speaking there are three major approaches for estimating manpower needs for any occupational group. They are: the normative approach, the subjective approach and the market demand approach. The normative approach is based on the existence of a norm worked out ideally on the basis of rational criteria and widely accepted by all concerned, and in particular by the potential employers. Examples of this kind of an estimate are the frequently quoted norms for doctors and nurses which are usually stated in terms of a ratio like the doctor-population size, and the nurse-number of beds.
Social welfare planners and social work educators often bemoan the fact that in the field of social welfare no such norms have been developed and accepted, which create serious difficulties for calculating manpower estimates for the plan period. It is questionable whether the so-called norms for the doctors and nurses etc. are really worked out on the basis of rational objective criteria from the point of view of the optimum ratio between the number of doctors and the size of the population or the number of nurses and number of hospital beds. What is frequently done is to take the existing ratio prevalent in the developed countries of Europe and North America, and assume that these should be the norms. These ratios are also used for comparative purposes, when they are not explicitly treated as norms.
The subjective approach for estimate of manpower is based on opinions of significant selected groups of individuals within a particular field in regard to the number of persons needed for employment in their respective organizations and/or sectors of employment. Based on such opinion polls, usually through a survey type of research for a sample population, an estimate is made as to the number of occupational personnel needed during a specified future period. An example of this approach is the estimate made by the authors of the Bombay Study. Even this approach is not quite helpful for a number of reasons. Firstly, in many fields there are no guidelines for such individuals for the assessment of manpower needs in their respective organizations or employment sectors. More important than this is the difficulty that the estimators frequently have no control over sanction of new programmes or expansion of existing programmes for which finances have to be secured from grant-giving authorities or from other sources. Even apart from this problem, the estimators may not have much influence within their own organizations in terms of increase in manpower of a particular type, and their recruitment.
The third approach for estimating manpower is first to calculate the existing stock of manpower in a particular area or sector on the basis of information that could be secured from employing organizations, regarding the number of persons already employed in different categories of jobs. Once the stock of man power is thus estimated, then the next problem is to work out the likely ratio of increase on an annual or a quinquennial basis, when this is done as a part of the planning exercise. An improved version of this approach is known as the sectoral and programmatic approach.9 Here projections are made based on the staffing pattern of a programme like the family planning programme and within a specific sector such as health and family planning.
There are serious difficulties even here because it may be difficult to secure accurate, reliable and comprehensive information regarding the existing stock of manpower in a particular field. Apart from this, there is also the problem of the availability of information on the stock of manpower on a time series basis in order to work out the rate of increase for future needs. Thirdly, there is the problem of an assumption that the past rate of increase would be valid for the future period. This assumption may not be valid due to changes of an unexpected nature, which may reduce the number of manpower required or increase it significantly. There are other possible approaches which are not discussed here. Among the three major approaches outlined above the one which is relatively more reliable is the third approach based on the existing number of employed personnel, assuming that fairly reliable information is available or could be secured. Our own approach in calculating manpower needs in the field of social welfare will broadly approximate this approach.
The employment opportunities in social welfare are greatly dependent upon the extent to which the field is occupationalised, which in turn depends upon the public’s image of social work and recognition of social welfare needs for which financial resources are made available. It is widely admitted that on both these counts, progress in this country is far from satisfactory. The society still views social work as essentially a volunteer activity adopted on the basis of dedication to a cause, not as a career. The plan allocation for social welfare has all along been less than 1 p.c. of the total plan provision and less than 2 p.c. if we also include allocations made for backward classes welfare.10 The volunteer organizations which are estimated to be approximately 7000, with rare exceptions, operate on a shoe-string budget and rely mostly on volunteers for carrying out the welfare tasks. The professionalisation of social welfare is a far cry when occupationalization of the field is yet to take place in many parts of the country.
It is obvious from what is said above that employment opportunities in social welfare for professional social workers (PROSOS) are very limited. We shall present some available statistics to substantiate this position. As estimated by the Study Team in 1958, there were 15,700 jobs in social welfare in India. According to the Delhi Study, 36 p.c. of jobs in the Delhi Sample and 15 p.c. of jobs in the U.P. Sample are held by the professionals. If we take the data from the census population of these two studies, the percentage of professionals drops to 20 for Delhi and 10 for U.P.11 It is unlikely that the situation in regard to the employment of professionals in 1958 was comparable to that of Delhi or U.P. in 1975. If we take 10 p.c. as the ratio for the country as a whole and estimate jobs likely to have been held by the professionals in 1958, we get the figure of 1600. There is some evidence to support the reliability of this estimate in the Study Team’s report. It is stated that there were 1087 graduates by 1958 who had completed a two-years post-graduate study in social work.12 This figure did not include data from two schools of social work. So, if we also add another 400 to 500 who might have graduated from these two schools during the period, we arrive at an estimate of 1500 to 1600 graduates in 1958. Obviously, the total number of employed professionals cannot exceed the total number of professionally qualified persons available for employment. According to the ICSW Study there were nearly 4000 professional social workers in 1965. Of these, 75 p c. were likely to have been employed in the field which means 3,000. When compared with 1600 jobs in 1958, there was a net increase of 1400 in seven years or an average annual increase at the rate of 200 jobs per year between 1958 and 1965.
We may make another estimate by using the data from the ICSW Study for the base year 1964 and projecting an estimate for the year 1974 and then work out the annual average increase in jobs for professional social workers. On the basis of 75 p.c. of the total graduates in 1964, there were 3000 who were employed in the field of social welfare. Taking the estimate of 10,000 graduates in 1974 and applying the 75 p.c. ratio to this figure, we find that there are likely to be 7500 PROSOS employed in social welfare at present.13 This would be a net increase of 4500 over the estimated 3000 in 1964 and an yearly average increase of job opportunities at the rate of 450.
Now let us take only Delhi and work out the likely increase in jobs for professional social workers and use this as a basis for computing the increase in job opportunities for the country as a whole. We shall make use of the data from the ICSW Study for 1965 and the census data of the Delhi Study for 1975. In 1965 there were 240 PROSOS in Delhi and in 1975 the number was 314. There has been an addition of 74 jobs during the past ten years. On an average, 7.4 jobs have been created every year. If we round this upto 8 and compute for the country as a whole on the basis of the ICSW Study data, then the estimate of yearly increase in job opportunities will be 144. This is not a conservative estimate because it is highly unlikely that the development of social welfare in India is comparable to Delhi from the point of view of job opportunities. All available data indicate that with the exception of the city of Bombay, the field of social welfare in Delhi is more developed than any other city or part of the country. The Bombay Study which excluded the field of industry from its scope and also had a small number of 123 agencies revealed that the annual increase in jobs was 6, which is lower than that obtained by the Delhi Study.
Let us compare the estimates based on calculations presented above, with the estimates available for two major sectors, namely, organized industry and the national family planning programme, which are considered to be the major fields for employment of professional social workers. Since 1948 there is a statutory requirement for the employment of labour welfare officers by factories employing 500 or more workers. Also many social work educators and the students of schools of social work consider the industrial field as providing better opportunities for employment of trained social workers, because of the statutory requirement which stipulates employment of qualified labour welfare officers. The field is also most popular, especially among the male students as it is believed to offer good salary and occupational status to the welfare officers.
K. N. Vaid, who had close contact with the field for many years, has attempted manpower projections for labour welfare officers in organized industry. According to his calculations, there were 2108 labour welfare officers in India in 1969, who were working in factories employing 500 or more workers. He projected that the number of welfare officers in 1978 would be 2576 and in 1979, it would be 2680.14 The average increase for the period of nine or ten years comes to 52. It may be noted that Vaid’s estimates were based on the assumption of a continuing expansion of the industrial sector at a significant rate. During the past two years, there has been a steep fall in the rate of index of industrial production. As of now, it seems unlikely that there will be a major improvement in the situation during the next year or two. So, Vaid’s estimate for 1978 to 1980 could be considered as optimistic and liberal.
The United Nations Organization commissioned a series of studies of the national family planning programmes in ten countries. One of these studies was on India. As part of this, the state of Maharashtra was chosen for an intensive study of the family planning programme which was carried out in 1973.15 It is well known that Maharashtra has been in the forefront of family planning campaign, and it is one of the five states in India which have been most enthusiastic and vigorous in implementing the programme. It is also one of the larger states population wise, and it has one of the most progressive and efficient administrative machinery. The UN study revealed that there was a “combined total of 300 social welfare positions out of a total of 6,516 persons employed full-time in family planning in Maharashtra state or approximately 4.5 per cent of the total staffing positions. Not all of these 300 positions are actually filled by trained social workers.”16 The data presented in this study indicate that approximately half of these 300 positions are being held by trained social workers. This information lends further support to our view that even in major sectors known to be employing professional social workers to a considerable extent, the actual proportion of the employed PROSOS to the total number of jobs for which they are eligible is very low. Elsewhere in the report of this Study, it is concluded: “Most of the positions currently allocated to social workers in the national family planning programme are in the field of health extension education at the district level. There are about 354 posts of District Extension Educator, of which one-third are social welfare personnel. Further-more, nearly all of these positions are filled, and about only 80 replacements are required per annum, due to attrition.”17 So, we can safely state that taking into account the demand from other areas of industrial and family planning sectors which were not included in the above estimates, currently the demand for social welfare manpower in these two sectors may be approximately 75 and 100 respectively. The total annual demand for social welfare manpower for all the sectors may be about 300.
Now, let us consider the supply side of these two sectors. According to the data made available by 22 schools of social work which offered specializations, 44 per cent of the total number of students admitted during the three years 1972,1973 and 1974, had enrolled in labour field, and 33.3 per cent had enrolled in family and child welfare, and medical and psychiatric social work which are the specializations in which family planning is included.18 For these three years, on an average there were 242 trained social workers entering the employment market in the industrial sector against an estimated demand for about 75 persons. This excludes those graduating from institutions training personnel only for the field of labour welfare.19 If we also include them, then there is a combined total of 400 trained manpower competing for about 75 to 100 jobs in the industrial sector. There were 181 persons specialising in the fields of family and child welfare, and medical and psychiatric social work who were competing for about an estimated 100 positions, along with graduates from other specialisations and from graduates of generic schools of social work, and also those with general education. It must be remembered that there is no statutory requirement for the employment of only graduates of schools of social work in family planning, and the field is open for the employment of graduates with social science or health education qualifications.
It is my guess that annually there are about 250 to 300 jobs available for PROSOS at present in the country.20 This cannot be considered a very bright prospect for fresh graduates in the field who pass out of schools of social work every year in large numbers. When we take into consideration the long waiting period after graduation, low starting salary, poor chances of promotion or dead-end jobs and non-recognition of education in social work as essential qualification for most jobs, the employment prospects for fresh graduates in social welfare is very bleak.
We shall now turn to an estimate of supply of professional social workers. Here, we are on a firm ground as reliable estimates of supply of PROSOS are possible. Because the number of institutions producing them is small and known to us, their capacity for admission is fixed and it is not likely to change for a period of time, and in the normal course record of the number of graduates turned out every year are maintained by these institutions. According to one estimate made in 1973, the post-graduate schools of social work were turning out 700 graduates annually.21 The latest estimate as calculated by the second UGC Review Committee on Social Work Education is also 700. According to the Report of this Committee the annual out-turn of PROSOS (including those with a B.S.W. degree) is 900.22 A careful examination of the data collected by the Committee will, however, reveal that this is an over-estimate and the total number of PROSOS inclusive of those passed out from the undergraduate schools is about 800.23 Periodical estimates have been made of the total number of graduates of schools of social work and these are presented below:
The PROSOS are multiplying at a phenomenal rate as can be seen from Table No.4. The Malthusian theory of population increase in geometrical progression seems to be operating here. This rate of increase is counter-productive because more is not always good as pointed out by Paul Wilding in another context.24 We cannot even say more the merrier considering the gloomy future ahead for the graduates.
The picture as it emerges from the discussion of estimates of demand and supply of PROSOS is this: the current market demand for them is between 250 to 300 and the supply is approximately 800. This means that the schools of social work are turning out graduates at the rate of nearly three times the demand. Even if we accept the more optimistic estimate of 450 jobs on the demand side, still the supply is nearly twice that of demand. This does not take into account the number of graduates of institutions, exclusively training personnel for the labour field and graduates from allied fields like business administration, law and health education who compete for some of the positions considered suitable for PROSOS. One has to be a starry-eyed romantic to visualize a rosy picture for the fresh graduates of the schools of social work.25
Employment of Paraprofessional Social Workers
Apart from the estimates made by the Study Team in 1958, the Sub-Committee of the Panel on Social Welfare for the Fourth Five Year Plan, and Gore and Ramachandran, there have been no estimates of the number of jobs held by the paraprofessional social workers in the country. As already stated, the Study Team’s estimate for this category of social workers was 8000 in 1958, if we only consider those with matriculation level training as paraprofessionals; 13550 if we also include, in addition, the undergraduate level trainees in this category. According to me on a conservative estimate, the total number of social workers of all categories in the country today is between 65000 to 70000.26 Assuming that about 80 p.c. of the total number of jobs in the field of social welfare are likely to be held by paraprofessionals (PARASOS), at present there may be 52000 to 56000 of them. Even in the advanced countries like United Kingdom, it is estimated that anywhere between 50 to 60 p.c. of the designated social work posts are held by persons without professional qualifications.27 If this is so in the developed countries, then our estimate of 80 p.c. of the total number of social workers in the country who may be paraprofessionals may not be far off the mark.
Problems of Paraprofessional Social Workers
For all practical purposes the paraprofessional social workers have been treated like the untouchables by the PROSOS who control the research and training institutions in the field of social welfare. As a result, there has not been any attempt to discuss or study the problems of employment and working conditions of the PARASOS so far.28 We can only make a guess, on the basis of information available to us about the employment and working conditions of professional social workers. The ICSW Study has pointed out that the employment prospects and working conditions of PROSOS are not very encouraging, to put it very mildly. If this is so in the case of those with two-years post-graduate degree in social work, it should be obvious that the salary prospects, promotion and working conditions of the PARASOS might be still worse. One major problem of the PARASOS is that they are mostly employed on a temporary basis which is both a source of great anxiety and a disincentive. Also, they work in most challenging and difficult conditions with little opportunity for guidance and support.
It is indeed tragic that those who form the bulk of the total number of social welfare workers in the country and who are deprived of the fringe benefits that go with urban living as they mostly live in rural areas, should be totally ignored by the social welfare administrators, planners and research workers. The PARASOS do not have any association or forum to voice their needs and problems like the professional social workers. They are the voiceless thousands who continue to work quietly with neither appreciation nor encouragement from any quarter.
In the field of social welfare we can distinguish two streams of social workers who, though working toward the same goal, do not have a common bond to held them together. One major reason for this state of affairs is the fact that the PARASOS mostly live and work in rural areas, and the PROSOS in urban areas.
Another reason is the relative disadvantage, both in terms of status and education on the part of PARASOS which inhibits any contact or communication between them and the PROSOS. The conferences, the seminars, the national conventions and the workshops are all planned, organized and deliberated upon by the privileged, namely the PROSOS. As a result, in these gatherings there is never an occasion for a discussion of the problems and conditions of work of the other group, who constitute the relatively more disadvantaged group of social workers. Thus the spatial, educational and status factors continue to act as before, as the major barriers in communication between the two groups of social workers. Let us earnestly hope that hereafter some attempt shall be made for the discussion of the problems of this group of social workers and to receive them in the professional caste structure so that they become the touchables.
There is a good deal of talk about social change and social development at conferences and seminars. So, let me make a few observations on this point. It is time that we seriously consider whether we really mean what we say when we speak at such gatherings about our commitment to the goal of social development and social change or whether it is merely peptalk and conference rhetoric. If we are genuine in our conviction on this point, we must recognize that the welfare needs of this country and the availability of resources to meet these needs will not permit us the luxury of post-graduate trained professional social workers for employment in large numbers. Over-professionalization, whether in terms of numbers or too high a level at which professional education is offered is not considered suitable even for advanced countries.
Recently the Group on Medical Education and Support Manpower, appointed by the Ministry of Health and Family Planning, Government of India, has criticised the over professionalisation of the medical profession. It has recommended increasing use of trained paraprofessionals to meet the health needs of the population which have been neglected due to over professionalisation. The Group is of the view that there is no indication for increasing the supply of professional medical manpower and, on the contrary, has recommended a reduction in the number of admissions to the medical colleges.29 If this is true of a prestigious and established profession like medicine, how much appropriate is it for social work which is certainly not on par with the medical profession in respect of recognition of professional training and employment opportunities?
India has the dubious reputation of being the only country in the world which has a “very high standard” of professional preparation at the post-graduate level for entry into the field. Even the most advanced countries like U.K., Germany, France, Scandinavian countries and, recently even the U.S.A. have accepted under-graduate level education as the first preparation for entry into the profession. In our case we may even have to consider training at a level lower than the undergraduate level. In any case it should be a top priority for all those concerned with social work education to see that no more post-graduate programmes of social work come into existence in the country. Any more expansion of postgraduate programmes in social work and consequent further increase in the supply of professional social workers is neither in the interest of the graduates who face increasing prospects of unemployment nor in the interest of the needy population of the country. Perhaps, it may serve the self interests of a handful of persons, but that is too high a price to pay.
Toward a Social Welfare Manpower Policy
Even after nearly four decades of training for social workers in India, there has not been any attempt to evolve and then implement a social welfare manpower policy, either by those who are responsible for their employment or by those who are responsible for their supply. The policy seems to be not to have any policy for this area. What needs to be done in order to evolve a manpower policy in social welfare has been stated by the Study Team and also repeated subsequently by those who have written on the topic. It is not that we are ignorant of what needs to be done. True, that available data are limited and it would be helpful if we can have some more data to enlighten us on the various aspects of the manpower problem. It is also true that those who are concerned with the employment and training of social workers are numerous and operate under conditions of full or partial autonomy, and there is no one central organisation with power to influence either the employment or training of social workers.
Even after making allowance for these difficulties, one cannot absolve those who hold the leadership positions in the field of social work education and in the professional associations, of their failure to do anything in this direction. On the contrary, some of them have indulged in doubletalk, bewailing the indiscriminate and mushroom like growth of schools of social work, and when presented with opportunities to influence the trend they have acted otherwise. Thus, we find that the professional social workers are being turned out increasingly in large number every year when we should be seriously concerned about the present situation and stop further increase. The leadership has exhausted all excuses for inaction on this front: lack of money for research, no data, no paid secretariat for the professional organisations, and many more which have been put forth in the past. They are left with no more excuses to rationalise their inaction.
There has not been any manpower study after the 1970s, whether officially sponsored or academic research. So it is difficult to update the manpower situation with reference to social welfare field. Fifteen years after the above estimates were published, Bose who had served both in the Planning Commission and the Central Ministry of Social Welfare referring to the gap between development of social welfare services and the recruitment of trained man power stated: “The 1970s and 1980s witnessed rapid expansion of social development programmes. The ground reality in the matter of employment of post-graduate social work degree holder is not at all heartening. There is no policy of the government in regard to the recruitment of manpower with training in social work to man social development services, the only exception being Labour Welfare Officer in the factories. No cadre of social workers has been created in any state despite the existence of large number of posts which could have benefitted from recruitment of professional manpower” (Bose, 1995). Seventeen years after the observations quoted above, the situation is not different for the employment of professional socil workers , under-graduate and post-graduate courses in social work. On a conservative estimate there are 150 institutions providing undergraduate and post graduate education in social work. An average per institution of 40 students may pass out every year. This means that annually 6000 to 7000 students with social work degrees enter the employment market. And only a small proportion of them could hope , mostly from the top 20 institutions, to find jobs in the social welfare field. Speaking at the convocation of NIMHANS last year (2012) central Health Minister Gulam Nabi Azad stated that there is a shortage of 96 per cent for the post of psychiatric social workers. What is the empirical basis for this observation is not clear.
Notes and References
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