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New social work recruits turned off by low salaries

March 16, 2010. Jerusalem Post: Ruth Eglash

Despite increasing numbers of young people interested in studying social work at the degree level, many new recruits to the profession are turned off by the low salaries and lack of opportunities to progress, a report published Monday by the Social Workers’ Union in Israel has found.

Released ahead of World Social Work Day Tuesday, the union found that one out of four young social workers must rely on income support to top up their salaries, which hover around minimum wage or NIS 3850 a month.

According to the data collected by the union, a social worker just starting out in the profession, even if he or she has some field work experience, will usually earn only a minimum salary. A social worker with a second degree and 25 years or more experience on average earns only NIS 6265 per month, before tax.

“Most people do not realize the conditions that social worker endure,” commented Yitzhak Perry, head of the Social Workers’ Union, adding that because the overwhelming majority of social workers were women the salaries were traditionally very low.

Out of the 15,000 social workers in Israel today, 89 percent are women, with the average age of a social worker being 40.

Perry said that in coordination with World Social Work Day, the union would be holding its annual conference to “highlight the contribution social workers have made to Israeli society and to the fight for human rights.”

Among the issues tackled this year by social workers in Israel were the government proposals to increase water rates, which would be detrimental to weak and low income populations; the fight to increase the number of child welfare investigators, specially trained social workers who assist children that have been raped or sexually abused; the campaign to raise awareness for food security and improved public housing, he said.

Information presented by the union Monday showed that, on average, social workers deal with some 250 cases at a time, with more than 80% working in the field and not in management positions.

The union’s report further found that some 9000 social workers were employed by either local municipalities as case workers or by government institutions such as hospitals, health care clinics, the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, National Insurance Institute or the Defense Ministry. The remaining 40% are employed by charities, private companies, manpower agencies or private initiatives outsourced by the ministry.

Regarding those who are just studying social work in institutes of higher learning, the report noted that even though roughly 1,100 students graduate with a first degree in the field, most struggle to find employment. Many of the graduates, the report found, end up working in the non-profit sector or for private companies where the benefits and salaries are much more attractive.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services announced Monday that it was a launching a program aimed at training social workers to be more culturally sensitive when working with immigrant communities in Israel, especially those from the Former Soviet Union.

Entitled “Facing Aliya,” the program will make social workers aware of cultural beliefs and traditions in order to allow them to work more effectively in the community.

The program was created after a ministry study revealed that 60% of new immigrants preferred to turn to a non-profit community organization for assistance than to the social welfare services.

The study also found that 73% of Russian-speaking immigrants earned less than the average market wage and 40% of immigrant children are not enrolled in after-school programs or are left unsupervised in the afternoons. 


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