Taiwan's Social Work Profession Development: Professionalism vs. National Professionalism

The beginning of this chapter claims that Taiwan's social work profession was brought about merely by means of strategies rather than by the accomplishment of skills or the maturity of the social work environment. However, through the process of compiling the developmental history of Taiwan's social work profession it can be seen that government plays an indispensible role in the profession. Throughout history, government was sometimes the leader that protected benefits, sometimes the object to fight against, and sometimes an ally. On the one hand, the social work profession serves as a key element during the forming of a nation (e.g., the
Japanese colonial period and the Kuomintang government period); on the other, the establishment of the profession also requires acts such as the incorporation of social workers and the legislation from the government.

Since 'certification' is employed in Taiwan within the social work system, its effect of regulation inevitably divides those who are competent from those who are not. On the basis of law, the competent ones provide specialized services based on their specialized knowledge and skills; although the certification system proposed by the government is supposed to protect professional service personnel and consumers, in fact it allows professional groups to maintain their economic power and elitism in education and society. Thus, the certification system has become a regulatory captive or is controlled by professional organizations (Wilson, 1984). However, the government is, in law, the power that should control these organizations.

Following the above arguments, we believe that to discuss the development of social work as a profession in Taiwan, it is necessary to look into its relationship with government. In Taiwan, ever since the application of national examinations, the development of social work as a profession in Taiwan has always wandered between professionalism and national professionalism. This is a unique phenomenon: Looking at the development of Taiwan's social work profession from the perspective of both the government and the profession, it can be seen that in the early stages, collective power of an alliance urged for the birth of the Social Worker Act, yet professional autonomy was later set back and weakened by the government intervention. Apparently the professional organizations resumed control during the period of amendments when means such as negotiation and public hearings were applied to make voices in the community heard. Nevertheless, the outcome emerged, hinting at the unbalanced situation whereby academics eventually became the representatives of the profession and the government, with social workers being clients.

The development of social work as a profession in Taiwan appeared to be a process wherein a single service provider could manage to form and control the 'market' of 'profession'. When the buyer was the government or vested interest groups, 'profession' was forced to face the buyer-dominated market and transformed into national professionalism. This chapter shows the phenomenon and emphasizes the connection between professionalization and national professionalism, yet it is not possible to point out which party is more superior. What is the ultimate outcome of the two parties' inter-influence? The answer is left to time to reveal.


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