The development of the social work profession in Hong Kong is contextualized against the background of the evolution of social welfare, which in turn has been juxtaposed in the complex socioeconomic, cultural, and political changes over the span of Hong Kong's unique transformation from a British colony to a Special Administrative Region under China. Before the government took a proactive stance in welfare provision, the NGO sector, based on its lineage with overseas, charitable, and religious organizations, had been able to enjoy autonomy in service innovation. Upon the government's assumption of a benevolent state in welfare provision, albeit by no means a 'welfare state' per se, but largely under a residual or productivist model of welfare, the NGOs had increasingly been subjected to the government's control in both finance and service accountability. This is particularly evident with the ascendancy of tenets of neoconservative, managerialism, and New Public Administration since the 1980s.
As Hong Kong's professional social work community has been largely working under government subsidy, it has thus been subjected to the control and pressure brought about by such changes in funding and managerial regime. On the other hand, professional education and training has similarly been subject to the influence of marketization in which training institutes have to develop more self-funded training programs and produce more social work graduates at various levels, ranging from sub-degree to postgraduate degrees. With the greater interface between Hong Kong and China upon reunification in 1997, there is increasingly more 'Chineseness' in the social work profession.
In fact, Hong Kong has rightly served the function of indigenizing 'Western' knowledge and practices in a Chinese community. Specifically, services have to cater for Chinese migrants in Hong Kong, agencies have to venture into working in mainland China, and social work education institutes have to collaborate with their mainland counterparts in diffusion social work training in China.
The social work profession in Hong Kong is well-placed in a strategic position in serving a Chinese community that embodies a significant portion of the world's population. Building upon past successes in indigenizing a largely
Western profession, the Hong Kong social work profession could be able to enable China, an emerging world power and increasingly active member of the global community, to be better prepared in facing up to the various challenges ahead.
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