Social workers and social organizations are predominantly clustered in Chinese cities, where it is easier for them to develop due to the concentration of resources and government support. Chinese urbanites currently enjoy a higher level of social services than those in the countryside, where demand for these services often goes unmet. In response, the General Office of the State Council and the General Office of the CPC Central Committee recently issued a report called “Ideas on Strengthening Rural Government Services, Functions and Establishments”, which repeatedly mentions the importance of social organizations and social workers in the countryside.
The report points out that there are three main reasons why now is a good time for the development of social organizations in the countryside. The first is that rural government functions are shifting, some functions becoming more suitable for social organizations to carry out. The second is the nature of rural governmental procurement services. Since it may be more suitable to adopt a market approach in providing these services, social organizations and social workers may be able to take on these types of public service projects more easily. The third is that these organizations can nurture social development in rural areas by promoting strengthened policy guidance, personnel training and project operations.
Also emphasized in the report is that cities and rural governments need to use the same criteria when providing certain services. The day before the report was announced, Guangdong launched a province-wide recruitment plan for social workers. The plan estimates that beginning in 2017, Guangdong will establish 200 county-level social service stations and will recruit 940 social workers, for whom the province has set aside 50 million RMB in wages. Guangdong additionally established street side procurement services for those in need, including the elderly, women and children, minors, disabled people and abandoned family members.
The report highlights that the fundamental services rural governments need to provide include: basic public education, rural labor employment, social security, basic care for the elderly and disabled, legal rights for special needs groups, basic medical and sanitation services, public culture and sports services, rural economic development, protection of rural workers’ economic rights, environmental protection, ecological construction, food safety, public security, conflict resolution, poverty alleviation, protection of minors, fire safety, reconstruction of dangerous rural homes and national defense mobilization. As suppliers of a wide range of services, social workers and organizations can undertake many of these tasks.
Social organizations and social workers enter rural areas by two main methods. Some are invited by local governments to come to the countryside. In these cases, local governments realize that there were previous gaps in the provision of social services that social organizations could better take on. Other organizations begin providing services in the countryside on their own, especially when it comes to procurement services. After the release of this report, it is likely that cooperation between rural governments and social organizations will increase.