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Data On Number Of Social Workers Who Have Left The Profession In Past Five Years

Type: Parliamentary Questions

Topic(s): Social Service Agencies & Partners, Social Service Professionals

Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) for each year in the past five years, how many social workers have left the profession; (b) what are the main reasons for leaving the profession; and (c) if this information not currently available, whether the Ministry will start tracking this information.


1. Social workers are employed in a range of settings from the social service sector to the healthcare and education sectors. The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) does not currently track changes in employment for all social workers, given that social workers work in a diverse range of organisations and it would be challenging to do so.

2. We do, however, track the key reasons based on Social Service Agencies’ (SSAs) declarations for staff resignations and turnover, i.e. changes in employment or employer. For social service sector employees in general, the top reasons declared for resignation based on MSF’s Manpower and Salary Survey in 2019 included (a) other opportunities for their career growth; (b) family and caregiving reasons; and (c) issues with job fit.

3. We recognise that retention of social workers is a key component of effective social service. On an ongoing basis, MSF and the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) work closely with SSAs to understand their manpower needs and work on strategies to improve the retention of their employees, including social workers. In supporting SSAs to develop career progression pathways, MSF, NCSS and SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) had launched the Skills Framework for Social Service (SFwSS) in 2019. The SFwSS provides information on the range of jobs and career pathways available in the sector, and employers are encouraged to utilise the framework to improve talent attraction, performance appraisal and retention.

4. To boost retention of social workers, the social work sub-team of the SkillsFuture Tripartite Taskforce (STT), which comprises representatives from community and Government agencies, has looked into continuous professional development of those in the profession, as well as clinical supervision and mentoring by the Singapore Association of Social Workers. At the same time, the STT has also identified self-care as an important factor for reducing attrition among social workers and has therefore partnered practitioners to promote self-care among social workers. In addition, to support fresh social work graduates entering the social service sector, the Social Service Institute (SSI) offers onboarding programmes that equip new social workers with knowledge of various social work settings.

5. While financial reward may not be the sole motivation for social work professionals, we recognise that other employers in the broader labour market will continue to pay competitively to attract talent and social work professionals need to be adequately compensated for their contributions. This is why we have developed salary guidelines for the sector and strongly encourage SSAs to adopt the guidelines.

6. At the broader level, the Social Service Tribe has been key in promoting the branding (including debunking common career myths) of the social service sector. The Tribe initiative will continue to engage SSAs to build their own value proposition to attract and retain manpower. In addition, MSF supports the Singapore Association of Social Workers in organising the annual Outstanding Social Worker and Promising Social Worker Awards ceremony, to recognise the exemplary contributions of social workers. We will continue to work closely with the sector and ensure that social workers are adequately supported in their professional journey.