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Defining the profession: exploring an international definition of social work in the China context
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-08, 05:35 authored by Anna Hutchings, Imogen Taylor
Global social work defies concise definition. In this article, the key terms of the definition of social work formulated by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) are critically analysed. It is argued that this definition cannot claim to be `universal¿ given the assumptions on which it is built and the rapidly changing global society in which social work is undertaken. This is demonstrated in the form of an analysis of social welfare provision and its implications for contemporary social work in China to assess whether the IFSW definition is applicable in this context. The conclusion is that the emerging aims and practice of social work in China are likely to be quite different from those in the West, and that the IFSW definition of social work has value as a point of reference rather than as a definitive definition or a statement of intent. Failure to recognise the limitations of a global definition risks ignoring the lived experience of social workers in China and those they work with.
JournalJournal of International Social Welfare
Department affiliated with
- Social Work and Social Care Publications
NotesThis paper has attracted international attention and has already become a primary reference point. It breaks new ground with a critique of the international definition of social work based on a detailed analysis of China, using evidence from history, social policy, and social work literatures. The Journal Editor spotted its potential for 'Debate' and commissioned responses from internationally renowned social work educators (Leung, Hong Kong University; Sewpaul, KwaZulu University). Publication resulted in an immediate response from a Shanghai researcher and an invitation to Taylor for a further response (2008). Written by Taylor, this paper builds on Hutchings' supervised Masters dissertation.
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