China has had significant economic growth and poverty reduction in the past four decades. The other side of this story, however, is a rapid increase in income and wealth inequality.
Under the guidance of Professor Qin Gao, who joined CSSW’s faculty last year and now leads the new China Center for Social Policy, Columbia University’s School of Social Work has been looking for ways to partner with China in building up the field of social work and social services.
At Professor Gao’s invitation, a delegation from China Association of Social Workers (CASW), consisting of 25 senior social service managers, visited the school on April 3 for an informational exchange with faculty, students, and administrators, several of whom offered a comprehensive overview of the school’s programs and services.*
“Working with CASW is a historic opportunity for our school,” said Professor Gao, who recently authored a groundbreaking book evaluating China’s social assistance program, Welfare, Work, and Poverty. “China’s social welfare system is the largest social welfare system in the world, and the problems that beset Chinese social assistance are unique. Columbia’s School of Social Work, as well as the social work profession at large, has a lot to learn from the Chinese experience just as much as Chinese social workers have a lot to learn from their American and European counterparts.”
In recent years, the Chinese government has been expanding the social welfare system while also calling for efforts to raise the professional standards of social workers—a field that is not well understood in China but for which there is clearly a growing need. As the visiting CASW members explained to their Columbia audience, Outline of the National Medium and Long-term Talent Development Plan (2010-2020), published seven years ago by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, set the goal of training 3 million professional social workers by 2020; and at the National Social Work Promotion Conference held in 2016, the following refinements were made:
Establish a well-functioning legal system pertinent to social work;
Expand the social work field and provide large-scale, systematic training for social work professionals;
Equip each urban community and rural village with at least one social work professional, and increase social work service agencies across the country to 1 million by 2020;
Support cooperation with related departments to improve the system of community correction, youth-related social work services, poverty alleviation methods and so on;
Accelerate the development of services in disability rehabilitation, women, and marriage, health care, education, and counseling.
Over 40 CSSW students and alumni, the majority of whom were from China, participated in the event. They shared with the delegation their experiences at CSSW and in New York City and inquired about social service development and job opportunities in China.
On behalf of the delegation, Mr. Liu Jing, Vice President and General Secretary of CASW, extended an invitation for CSSW faculty, administrators, students, and alumni to visit CASW in China and continue the communication and exchange between CSSW and CASW.
As Dean Irv Garfinkel noted in his remarks to the delegation, Columbia University’s School of Social Work has a long history and deep commitment to global social work. In the past decade, the school established the Global Health Research Center of Central Asia and the Jordan Social Work Education For Excellence Program, and it now plays an active role in a University-wide coalition for the educational advancement of Syrian refugees. Thus the meeting with the CASW delegation marks an important step forward in carrying on the school’s legacy of global social work, and, under the leadership of Professor Qin Gao and the new China Center on Social Policy, the school looks forward to playing a role in assisting China in achieving its goal of providing high-quality social services to those most in need.
Thanks to Xu Liao (MSW’17) for contributing to this article.
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