The Professional Status of Social Workers: International Review

Social work as a profession has its unique goals, body of knowledge, methods, and a guiding system of values. At the same time, it is characterized by complexity and multidimensionality, which are reflected in multiple aspects of the profession, such as the organizational system in which it functions; the target populations receiving social services; the needs, problems, and challenges of the clients in the care of social workers; the types of the social workers’ powers and functions; and their methods of intervention.

The current report is a review of the milestones in the development of social work as a profession in Israel. It examines the status of social workers from an international perspective, comparing selected aspects including legal status and institutional governance; the establishment of professional agencies
and the granting of authority; professional certification including training; conditions of employment – recruitment, positions, terms of employment, and remuneration; the social worker’s image in the eyes of  the public and clients; violence and safety. Five countries were selected for the comparison – the United
States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Denmark. These countries represent a variety of approaches toward the concept of the welfare state and the focus of social workers’ employment, and, as developed countries in the Western world, are suitable for comparison with Israel.

The review spans theoretical and empirical literature and publications and information available on the websites of governmental bodies and local authorities, professional associations/unions, and nonprofit and civil society organizations. The review highlights the complexities of the occupation and the challenges faced by countries around the world in promoting the professional status of social workers and the necessity to take action to address them. In the summary, we present possible actions aimed towards the working conditions of social workers, their public image and their safety, and emphasize the importance of building a comprehensive, multidimensional strategic plan to improve the professional status of social workers.