Social Work Education in the Changing Society of Macau
Samuel Y.Hui(Social Work Program Macau Polytechnic Institute)
Macau underwent rapid social and economic growth and development in the 70s and 80s, which will most likley continue in the 90s. These changes, cou-pled with a substantial increase in population, particularly during the past two decades, have generated much impact on facilities and social services such as housing, education, employment, health care and social welfare services. At the same time, accompanying social development are a number of social problems and needs.
In response to the changing needs of a changing community, more and more social service programmes and facilities have gradually been established by both government and non-government organisations. Meanwhile, the de-mand for trained social workers to render services to the needy and vulnerable has become so presssing that it has sparked the development of higher social work education in Macau .
This paper is devoted to a discussion of the development of social work education in Macau, the problems and difficulties encountered, future chal-lenges, and the implications of the local social service situation on curriculum design.
In the past two decades, Macau has experienced tremendous social and eco-nomic growth and development. According to the census of September 1991, Macau had a total of 354,527 residents, an increase of 112,798 over the previous (1981) census.1 (See Table 1.) The increase was mainly caused by the influx of immigrants from mainland China from the late 70s to early 90s. It is estimated that more than a hundred thousand new immigrants came to Macau during this period.
Macau's population pressure has been generated by a high rate of illegal immigration. At least 169,762 persons, including some repeated migrants, en-tered illegally between 1981 and 1989.2 In three separate amnesties between 1982 and 1990, the Macau Government legalised the resident status of 70,111 illegal Chinese immigrants, about one-fifth of the total resident population in 1991.3
Many of these new immigrants, with a relatively low economic and educa-tional standing, moved to fill temporary and low-income jobs. In the process of adjusting to the new environment, many of these families needed some form of assistance, finanical or non-financial or both, to help them cope with their prob-lems. On the other hand, it was not uncommon to find that many of these new immigrants lived in sub-standard housing. According to the 1988 survey of squat-ters conducted by the Government, there were 7,917 squatter households with a total population of 31,929.4
Adding to the increasing number of local residents, these new immigrants have contributed to a substantial growth in the Macau population. Obviously, such a rapid population growth has created heavy pressures on public utilities, housing, hospi-tals, schools, jobs and social welfare services. So, in order to cope with the increasing demands for social services, trained social work personnel are called for to carry out the tasks. The development of social work education has thus become an indispen-sable part of the effort to meet the changing needs of Macau society.
The Development of Social Services
The development of social services in Macau was relatively slow prior to the 70s. Basically, a variety of institutions or homes for the elderly, orphans, mentally and physically handicapped as well as general welfare services were available. Many of these establishments were (and are) run by non-govemment agencies (including religious bodies, local neighbourhood and kinship organisations). Basically, services were rendered mainly by untrained workers conventionally in the form of charity or relief work, with a concentration on tangible/financial assistance.
Apparently, the impacts resulting from the growing population have some-how accelerated the development of social services in Macau. And in response to the increasing social service needs of the changing community, both governmentand non-government welfare agencies have ventured to establish more facilities and services. These are reflected in a constant increase in government expendi-ture on welfare services and assistance which include subsidies to voluntary wel-fare organisations, individuals and families.
Moreover, the establishment of the Social Security Fund in December 19895 is a good example of the government's positive reaction to the needs of the residents.
In the 80s new forms of services and facilities began to appear. These included sheltered workshops for the physically handicapped, social centres for youth and the elderly and so on. In other words, the nature and scope of services have gradu-ally shifted from relief work/material assistance to non-material social work ser-vices covering a wider range of clientele -- individuals and families, school chil-dren, youth,the aged, the mentally and physically handicapped, street children, unmarried mothers, etc.
The trend in the 90s is that more and more world-wide social service agencies such as World Vision or the Richmond Fellowship have begun to extend their opera-tions and services to Macau by setting up branch offices. In such cases, the demand for social workers in the near future will certainly be getting more critical.
The Demand on Social Workers and the Current Situation
There is no up-to-date statistical information on social workers in Macau. According to the observations and enquiries of this researcher, it is estimated that to date, there are about 110 social workers (including 30 Portuguese) with various levels of social work training ranging from certificate to master's level. About 70 of them are locally trained, including 28 with Bacharelato degree and 1 with Di-ploma ( i.e. 16 graduates from the Macau Polytechnic Institute, and 13 from Macau Institute of Social Work). They are the first two batches of local graduates who have received professional social work training at the 3-year under-graduate level. The others had their training elsewhere in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Portugal, the U.S.A, Canada, and other overseas countries.
In comparison to a rough estimate of 155 social service establishments in Macau,6the existing social work personnel are substantially far below the actual demands. The ratio is 1:1.4 establishments. Inevitably, many of the social service agencies are still relying on volunteers and non-trained workers to render their services.
However, social work practice, like the practice of all other professions such as the law, medicine and accounting, is recognized by a constellation of values, pur-poses, sanctions, knowledge and methods. Moreover, social workers serve the most vulnerable people in the society including the poor, the mentally and physically handi-capped, the aged, drug abusers, abused children, rape victims, and so on. In that connection, excellence in social work and social work education are essentially a matter of ethical responsiblity, of protecting the public interest, and of promoting the general welfare of citizens.7 Therefore, it is certainly impossible to mainly de-pend on volunteers and non-trained workers to render professional services to a wide spectrum of clienteles with a diversity and complexity of needs and problems.
If each of these 155 more social service establishments (not including schools) acquires two social workers, there will be a need for 310 or more social workers. Furthermore, thinking in terms of the social worker population ratio, Hong Kong, for example, has about 85 social workers per 100,000 population. In many aspects, at least socio-culturally, Macau is quite similar to Hong Kong. If the same ratio is adopted, it is estimated that Macau will need about 340 social workers.
In view of the facts that new social service agencies will be added to the list, and this coupled with the growing population, an increasing demand for trained frontline social workers is definitely inevitable. In that connection, social work education will play a vital role in the social welfare development of Macau. This in turn, will start the move towards professionalization of social work as well.
The Development of Social Work Education in Macau
It was not until 1977 that Macau had its own social work training program, which was a 2-year certificate course offered by the Macau Institute of Social Work. The program was made possible with the assistance of the School of Applied Social Studies, Hong Kong Polytechnic that rendered technical and pedagogic services by its faculty members on voluntary and part-time bases.
Due to limited manpower and resources, student recruitment was conducted every two years. The operation was kept on a small scale with an output of 70 more social work graduates during the period of 1977 to 1990.
As mentioned earlier, the demand for social workers was getting more pro-nounced as a result of the rapid socio-economic development of the city. To ad-dress the issue of the shortage of social work manpower, the government has, as of three years ago, ventured to implement social work training at university and polytechnic levels.
The University of Macau first launched its 4-year Bachelor in Social Work pro-gram in 1990, while at the same time the Macau Polytechnic Institute (MPI) also started its 3-year Bacharelato degree program. Additionally, the Macau Institute of Social Work (MISW) also upgraded its program to a 3-year Bacharelato degree level.
Currently, the University of Macau has a total of 18 students in its 4-year un-dergraduate program while the Macau Polytechnic Institute has an enrollment of 70 students, and the Macau Institute of Social Work has 27 students. These three institutes are training a total of 115 social work students.
It is anticipated that the future development of social work education in Macau will move to a stage of consolidation to facilitate better utilization of resources, including teaching staff and fieldwork placements. Incidentally, the University of Macau has decided to phase out its undergraduate social work program in two years, while the MPI will extend its program to Bachelor degree level by Fall, 1994.
Difficulties and Problems Involved in the Development of Social Work Education
There are difficulties and problems involved in the development of social work education in Macau, and the factors contributing to the situation include:
1. Shortage of Qualified Teaching Staff
Owing to the fact that social work education is still in its early stage of devel-opment in Macau, it is indeed difficult to find qualified local people with higher degrees such as Master of Social Work or Doctoral Degrees.
The first batch of local professionally trained social workers are recent gradu-ates at the Bacharelato degree level. It will take another five to six years for some of these graduates to be academically and professionally qualified for teaching at the tertiary level. In Macau, there are eight persons with a Master's degree in So-cial Work. Except one, all the other seven individuals are non-residents of Macau. Among these individuals, only three of them are in the field at top administrative positions. The others are serving as faculty members at the three higher educational institutes. Meanwhile, part-time lecturers are being hired to teach courses of their expertise in order to cope with the problem of manpower shortage.
Subject to such a constraint, Macau, for the time being, has to rely on these expatriats for training its social workers. Despite the fact that these academics/ professionals contribute their knowledge, expertise and experience to the city to-gether with good supplies of teaching and reference materials, localization is still a necessary step for its future social service manpower development.
Nevertheless, qualified teaching staff with field experience are rather diffi-cult to recruit because it requires the individuals to have a fair knowledge of Macau's society, its culture, and preferably the ability to speak Chinese, as a great majority of the students are Chinese with a few locally-born Portuguese. All of them speak and understand Chinese. In Macau, there are some qualified Portu-guese social workers who can serve as teaching staff. However, a great majority of our students cannot understand and speak Portuguese. On the other hand, most of the students' English standing is not proficient enough to thoroughly under-stand lectures which are conducted in English. So, the best medium of instructionfor Macau students is Chinese supplemented by English. The language barrier thus makes it impossible to engage these professionals in the training program. To the knowledge of this researcher, the existing faculty members of social work are Chinese from Hong Kong and overseas, who speak both Chinese and English.
2. Non-Competitive Salary for Social Work Academics
As the salary for qualified social work professionals and academics in cities like Hong Kong and Singapore is substantially higher than that of Macau, it becomes quite difficult to attract qualified and experienced professionals to come to serve as full-time teaching staff in Macau. Most of the candidates prefer to work part-time.
Job security is another crucial factor to cut down the high turnover rate among teaching staff. However, the current personnel practice is to offer a one- to two-year contract for faculty members, without a system of tenure. Coupled with a less competitive salary, the phenomenon of high turnover among faculty mem-bers here in Macau is indeed understandable. This is detrimental to the develop-ment of social work education in Macau, for these check the motivation of the individuals to commit themselves or engage in research and/or other academic pursuits that require a longer period of time to accomplish. Apparently, it is rec-ognized that workplace conditions have a marked influence on recruitment and retention of staff. So, in order to maintain a high quality of academic activities with a strong teaching force to ensure continuity of academic service, improve-ment of working conditions is indispensable to attract well-qualified and experi-enced intellectuals and academics to serve on the faculty.
3. Lack of Local Teaching Materials
There is a scarcity of local teaching and reference materials, particularly those related to Macau society and focused on the social problems and needs of local residents. Therefore, teachers have to rely on Western texts and references. In or-der to avoid too strong an influence on thoughts, and the phenomenon of "cul-tural imperialism,"8 or so-called "professional imperialism,"9 both field practition-ers and academics of social work should be encouraged to develop indigenous teaching resources, and to conduct research studies on the local situations.
4. Lack of a Long-Term Manpower Plan
As there is no long-range plan or policy on social welfare programs/services for Macau, it is quite impossible for the training institutes to accurately predict the actual number of social workers required at a certain stage/period of time, despite the fact that there is an increasing demand for social service personnel. This also constitutes difficulty in planning student intake. In such a case, Macau will be confronted with a situation of either under-provision or over-supply of social work manpower. Therefore, a more effective cordination and liaison among all concerned, including the Social Welfare Department, non-governmental agen-cies, and the training institutes are necessary.
5. Disparity in Salary and Benefits between Government and Non-government Agencies
It is recognized that there is a significant discrepancy in salary between gov-ernment departments and non-government agencies. The government provides a 50 percent subvention to the voluntary welfare agencies, and yet all these organi-zations cannot afford to pay a salary comparable to that of the government. For example, a Bacharelato degree holder working with the government is offered a monthly salary of $13,300, whereas his/her counterpart in the voluntary section only receives $5,000 to $6,000, which is more than 50 percent below the government scale.
The great disparity in salary and benefits does make it rather frustrating and demoralizing for those who cannot find their way to work with the government. Besides, it also causes staff turnover from voluntary agencies to the government. The former often encounter problems in attracting and retaining qualified work-ers to work with them. So, unless the government increases its subvention and/or specifically stipulates that the subsidy is for the workers' salary scale to bring it up to a scale equal or close to that of the government, the present situation will remain unchanged. Otherwise, it it will remain less attractive to young people to join the profession. It is true that applicants to the Social Work program, com-pared with that of other disciplines such as commerce, computer, and others remian relatively fewer. After all, Macau is a commercial city. People naturally tend to be so pragmatic that they prefer a profession or job that can bring them a better for-tune, or a better return on their investment.
Future Challenges and Implications on Curriculum Design
One of the crucial dilemmas facing professional education centres is the issue of specialization. The undergraduate social work practitioner is viewed as a generalist who has experienced a curriculum in which emphases are on the ele-ments of knowledge, values, and basic skills. Education for social work practice calls for the maintenance of a good balance between the academic and the practi-cal; the theoretical and applied; the values of knowing and the values of doing.
In light of the critical demand for frontline social workers in Macau, the un-dergraduates are assumed to be the major providers of direct services to the target population, and direct service is broadly defined to include a very wide range of intervention methods. However, attempts should be made to prepare them for a great diversity of roles in the final year of their undergraduate studies, and also the continuing education programs. It is recognized that "one enduring character-istic of social work education that affects the expectations of social work gradu-ates is the fact that social work education is intended to prepare students to exer-cise professional judgment"10 and to effectively explore and mobilize available resources to cope with the needs and problems of the community.
On the other hand, being convinced that social work practice has much to doto address the call of its time, we have to prepare our students for the new chal-lenges derived from the changing community and situations. So, in that perspec-tive, we need to inculcate analytic skills and techniques in our students to deal with special client groups such as the elderly, delinquents, mentally ill/handi-capped and new immigrants. We must also prepare these students to face the chal-lenges in today's society with professional values and practice.
Moreover, in view of the shortage of trained social workers in Macau, it is advi-sable that social services should not just take on a "remedial" approach. More atten-tion should be given to the "enhancement" of people's social functioning, and also "prevention" of the emergence of social problems. Parts of these can be achieved through active community and family life education programmes and activities. In that connection, students should be oriented to these modes of social interventions.
Furthermore, polytechnic- and university-trained social workers will most likely move to supervisory or administrative positions in their organizations, es-pecially at times of further expansion and development of social services in Macau. In such a case, academic subjects on policy formulation, program skills, supervi-sion, and agency management will be significant and relevant for the curriculum so as to prepare them for the role of a leader or administrator in the service deliv-ery system in future. Meanwhile, it is indeed necessary and realistic to start pre-paring future successors to gradually fill the various social service positions/va-cancies in the related government departments by 1999 when the existing Portu-guese social service personnel pull out from the city. This currently comprises 30 percent of the overall trained social work manpower of the city. The local social workers (Chinese and locally born Portuguese or Chinese) who remain in Macau will be the ideal people to maintain the continuity of services.
In view of the above-mentioned situation, it may be necesary to consider post-graduate training or advanced degree programs at Master's degree levei in future to prepare the local graduates for a variety of social work roles in both the government and non-government settings.
Social work is a professionally-mandated helping service. Practitioners should be equipped with the appropriate values, knowledge, methods and techniques with a recognized formal training to enable them to help their clients cope with their problems effectively. It is delightful to note that recent development in social work education in Macau is going in this direction. Nevertheless, to avoid "pro-fessional imperialism," there is a strong need to develop locally-based social work literatures suited to the indigenous needs of Macau's society and her people.
Furthermore, with the increasing complexity of the social problems in the context of a rapidly changing society here, more advanced-level training in social work would tend to produce more capable senior social work practitioners, ad-ministrators and educators. Certainly, the active support from related authorities would be a major boost to this development. After all, the mission of social workis for the enhancement of the quality of life of the people，in particular the livelihood of the socially disadvantaged groups.
1 Macau Census and Statistical Department, Macau Government, The Popula-tion Census of 1991.
2 D. Y. Yuan, "Illegal Immigration and Urban Living Indicators in Macau," in B. Taylor, D. Y. Yuan, R. Ramos, and H. K. Wong (eds.), Socioeconomic Development and Quality of Life in Macau (Macau: Centre of Macau Studies, University of Macau, 1992), p. 101.
4 D. Y. Yuan, "Significant Demographic Characteristics of Two-Generation Squatters in Macau, 1988," in D. Y. Yuan, Wong Hon Keong, and Lib鈔io Martins (eds.), Population and City Growth in Macau (Macau: University of East Asia and Macau Census and Statistics Department, 1990), pp. 145-146.
5 Boletim Oficial de Macau, no. 51, Dezembro, 1989 (Macau: Macau Govern-ment, 1989), p. 6656.
6 Macau Social Service Directory, 1991 (Macau: Macau Social Workers' Associa-tion and Macau Polytechnic Institute, 1991).
7 Juanita B. Hepler, and J. H. Noble, Jr. "Improving Social Work Education:Taking Responsibility at the Door," Social Work (March 1990): 126. (U.S.A.: Na-tional Association of Social Workers).
8 Peter Hodge, Community Problems: Social Work in South East Asia (Hong Kong:Hong Kong University Press, 1980).
9 James Midgley, Professional Imperialism: Social Work in the Third World (Lon-don: Heinemann, 1981).
10 Patricia L. Ewalt," Trends Affecting Recruitment and Retention of Social Work Staff in Human Services Agencies," Social Work, vol. 36, no. 3 (May 1991):215. (U.S.A.: National Association of social workers).