Desktop version

Home arrow Sociology arrow Social Work in East Asia

The Rise of Accreditation of Social Work

According to Peng (2002) throughout the 1950s and 1960s, because economic growth was rapid and the population was still relatively young, the conservative social welfare policies were not criticized by the Japanese people.

In 1971, Japan became an aging society as the proportion of elderly people reached 7 per cent of the total population. In addition, because of the oil crises in the 1970s, Japan faced its first economic recession since the end of World War II during this period. In response to the decline in economic growth, the Japanese government curtailed social welfare expenditure and asserted that the development of the Japanese welfare state should be different from the Western countries' style. This conservative welfare regime of the 1980s is often referred to as the Japanese-style welfare society regime (Nihongata Fukushi Shakai Regime), which is based on individual self-help and mutual aid between families, neighbors, and the local community. According to the Economic Planning Agency (1979), the
welfare society provided welfare provisions by an efficient state as accorded by

the principle of the liberal economic society.

The idea of a welfare society with this policy orientation could be seen as the concept of welfare pluralism. Welfare pluralism or the welfare society, in the Western countries, is a synonym for denoting an arrangement blending both public and private sectors. That is, a 'public-private mix' in industrial society, though the boundary separating the public and private sectors is often fuzzy and indeterminate (Rein and Rainwater, 1987).

However, in Japan the welfare society was proposed mainly for the retrenchment of the government's role in the provision of social welfare. Under the political directive of welfare society, Peng (2002) argued that the Japanese government substantially curbed the rate of the rise of social security expenditure from 1980 to 1990 (from 12.4% to 13.6% of the national income). In regard to the tiny increase during the 10 years, she said,

This modest increase, despite tremendous expansionary pressures from pension and health care, was achieved by keeping down the cost of social welfare and by shifting public care and personal service responsibilities back to the family. (Peng, 2002: 416)

Therefore, corresponding to the changes in the demographic structure of Japan, the familialistic welfare regime not only showed the extent of the family's financial and care responsibility but also that the care burden may have increased rather than decreased over time. This fact sets the context for the political and economic dynamics that led to a new settlement in the social work system that followed.

Since the term 'welfare society' had been proposed in the 1970s, the Japanese government had attempted to establish a model based on the minimum security provided by the government plus the spirit of self-help (Goodman and Peng, 1996).5 Figure 2.1 shows the original concept of welfare society, which is different from the concept of welfare state and mostly relies on resources from the voluntary

sector and the family.

Yet, the role of professional social workers was not taken into account under the propaganda of welfare society. On the contrary, the Japanese government proposed the slogan 'welfare society with vitality' in 1979. The objectives were to create strong and stable individuals and communities, as well as a free and energetic private sector where a secure livelihood could be obtained (Shiratori, 1985: 216). Takahashi (1997: 195) argued that the overall strategy was to create a new type of community on the basis of non-hierarchical solidarity and spontaneous participation.

5 The debates of social work in Japan have to expand to the welfare model and its relevant ideas. In order to avoid the 'over-Westernization' of social welfare, in which workers would become lazy and the family institution would deteriorate as a result of excessive investment in social security systems (Anderson, 1993; Takahashi, 1997), the Japanese government introduced the 'Japanese-model welfare society' in the mid-1970s. The core concept of welfare society is that the self-help of citizens was regarded as primary and central in ensuring welfare, while public welfare would be only supplementary (Chan et al., 2004).

Fig. 2.1 The Welfare Diamond

Source: Revised from Firdberg (1997).

This idea, which could be found in the White Paper of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, persisted into the 1980s. Therefore, even though the Japanese government deemed the welfare society as a new strategy that surmounted the problems that occurred in the Western welfare states, it was actually a return to the traditional mode of welfare provision, relying on the family and local communities (Maruo, 1986; Goodman and Peng, 1996; Tsukada, H., 2002; Chan et al., 2004).

Chen (1996) criticizes the aspiration to a welfare society, sometimes called a caring community, as appearing somewhat idealistic, and the term 'welfare pluralism' often serves rhetoric in policy debate. In this sense, there is no doubt that the professionalism of social work could not be emphasized, and the overwhelming majority of the welfare officers on the front line were seemingly general public servants without professional training in social work.

Ito (1995) analyzed the causes for why welfare officers lacked professional training in social work. Firstly, the several policies of de-professionalization in social work made the welfare officers becoming inactive. New social work practice or theory was found in neither the statutory sector nor the voluntary sector.

In addition, the Minsei-Iin system lost its enthusiasm and was not very popular among citizens. Thirdly, there was much confusion in social work education. Field practice was not seen as an important part of education and, in several universities it was not included in the curriculum. Furthermore, the placement system caused a split between social work education and social work practice because social welfare officers were not required to be graduates of social work colleges (Yoshimura, 2009). The gap between school training and the practical work was filled in the late 1980s with the rise of accreditation of the social work system. In 1987 the national, licenced social work system, which emphasized the linkage between social work education and field practice, was launched by the Minister of Health and Welfare.

However, the newly created licence, Certified Social Worker (CSW), could not guarantee the development of professionalism of social work in Japan. In fact, the launch of CSW was mainly decided by the Japanese government and was not the product of collective movements by social workers' organizations. In this sense, rather than the awakening of social work professionalism, the promotion of the CSW was like the central government's administrative decision. Moreover, according to the Certified Social Worker and Certified Care Worker Law (CSWCCW Law), neither employees in welfare offices nor hospital social workers needed to obtain the CSW.

In fact, in the late 1980s, CSW was a profession in name only because it had no formal jurisdiction. Hence, CSWs do not have a monopoy in the field of social work, and other professionals can do the same work without a social work licence. Ito (1995) pointed out that the CSW Law was enacted to reflect the transitional situation in the development of professionalism of social work, yet, the more fundamental change in the basic power relationship between bureaucrats, professionals, and citizens was an imperative theme. Wolferen (1993) argues the necessity of changing the power relationship in order to develop the professionalism

of social work:

The Japanese government bureau has extraordinary power of awarding licenses and other permissions for commercial pursuits, and of withholding advantages like subsidies, tax privileges or low-interest loans at their own discretion. Ministries can resort to 'administrative guidance' to force organizations in their realm of endeavor to adopt 'voluntary measures'. (Wolferen, 1993: 58–59)

Indeed, the Japanese government played a significant role in enacting the CSWCCW Law. Instead of responding to the strong claim from the third sector, the CSW-CCW Law was legislated successfully by the Japanese bureaucrats' efforts. Usually it takes a long time to enforce a law in Japan, yet the CSW-CCW Law was enacted extraordinarily fast (in only four months).

There were several reasons behind the Japanese government promoting the accreditation of social work as a profession. Firstly, demographic changes brought new social problems affecting Japanese society, in particular the issue of an aged society and the huge number of the elderly attracted the Japanese government's attention. However, after the 1970s the Japanese government's role was retrenched in public services in order to cut down social welfare expenditure. In other words, relying on the social workers in the non-bureaucratic sector for dealing with the increasing social problems was unavoidable. Therefore, to employ a basic line of social workers in the non-bureaucratic sector became an imperative issue to the Japanese government. This was the backdrop explaining why the Japanese government actively enacted the CSW-CCW Law. Secondly, Yoshimura (2009) explained the reasons why the Japanese government hastened the enactment of the CSW-CCW Law. According to his study, before 1987, the social worker national licence was handled by the General Affairs Section in the Bureau of Social Affairs. But, because of the Japanese government's organizational reformation in the end of 1980s, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) planned to establish a new bureau, which combined both the welfare clan and the health clan. In this way, the new bureau subsequently might manage the national licenced social workers, and that meant the Bureau of Social Affairs might lose jurisdiction over social work human resources. Therefore, the welfare officers attempted to integrate the national licence legislation of social workers with that of careworkers and to locate it under the General Affairs Section (Yoshimura, 2009: 242). As a result, this arrangement also impacted social work education.

Sakaguchi and Swepaul (2011) point out that there are some identifiable peculiarities in social work education in Japan, especially with the combining of care work and social work education. Essentially, the requirements for doing the CSW and the CCW are different in many ways. For example, the CSW emphasizes empathy, keen observation, and the ability to connect social resources under various powers; however, the CCW training places more emphasis on the proficiency of caring and communication skills.

Table 2.2 The Comparison between CSW and CCW

Certified Social Worker (CSW)

Certified Care Worker (CCW)

Legislation (Year)

CSW-CCW Law (1987)


Nominal monopolization

Aims of working

• to use knowledge and professional skills to assist the people who are disabled and have difficulties in daily life through consultation, advice, instruction, and welfare services, etc.

• to work with doctors and other professionals to connect and coordinate the resources for helping people.

• to use knowledge and professional skills to assist people who are disabled and have difficulties in daily life

in order to provide proper care services.

• to provide instructions to the clients and the relevant caretakers for the proper care services.

Contents of working

• providing synthetic and proper welfare services and relevant health services.

• performing innovative work

in the communities in order to ensure cooperative relationships with relevant welfare providers.

• providing synthetic and proper welfare services to people with dementia and who have other physical and mental problems.

• ensuring cooperative relationships with relevant welfare providers.

Nevertheless, the CSW-CCW Law, which amalgamates two different professions in the same legislation, results in the mixture of social work and care work education. In this regard, the education in either social work or care
work is not able to be professionalized because it is difficult to be make the training specialized. This is a fundamental cause hampering the development of professionalism of social work in Japan.

At the same time, paradoxically, the CSW-CCW Law describes the aims of working and contents of working for both certified social workers and certified care workers in similar terms. Even though they are describing different professional functions, the aims and contents of working overlap and are confused. Table 2.2 shows the comparison between the CSW and CCW in terms of the CSW-CCW Law. Consequently, even though the rise of accreditation in social work could be observed by the enactment of the CSW-CCW Law in 1987, it is still hard to say that social work in Japan has become an independent profession. On the one hand, the social worker in Japan has a monopoly on the name, but not in the work. On the other hand, the nature of the social worker was still under the shadow of the Japanese government's control, rather than the awakening of social work professionalism. In conclusion, the development of the professionalism of social

work was not yet fully-fledged in Japan during this period.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >

Related topics