by UNICEF Malaysia
In Malaysia, social workers play a crucial role in addressing the diverse and complex needs of its population. With 18,750 reported cases of child abuse, neglect, abandonment and over 13,500 reported cases of domestic violence between 2020-2022, the need for qualified social workers is enormous. Their knowledge and skills help people in Malaysia overcome personal, social, and systemic challenges to live better lives. Without their contribution, it would be difficult to achieve the Malaysian targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.
While the job of a social worker is complex and challenging, social work is not regulated nor recognized as a profession by law in Malaysia. By comparison, it is regulated in neighbouring countries including the Philippines (1965), Singapore (2009), Thailand (2013), and Indonesia (2019). In addition, social workers face limited public understanding of their role and value, which include viewing social workers as charity or volunteer workers. This impacts demand for services and investment in social work. Finally, there are not enough social workers in Malaysia: only 1 for every 8,576 people compared to the ratios in the US (1:490), Australia (1:1,040), UK (1:3,025) or Singapore (1:3,448).¹
To promote social work in Malaysia, UNICEF Malaysia and the Malaysian Association of Social Workers (MASW) launched the "Heroes Among Us" Campaign on August 24, 2023 during the country's National Social Work Summit. The campaign was launched with three distinct components after months of planning involving a multi-stakeholder coalition: social media activation to increase awareness of social work among voters and the public; media engagement to mainstream stories about social work; and political lobbying to mobilise decision-makers and parliamentarians around the need for the Social Work Professional Bill. The Social Work Professional Bill has been pending since 2010, and re-newed attention on its benefits and needs is required.
Through this campaign, MASW and UNICEF’s mission is to raise awareness of the critical role that social workers play in the lives of children, families and communities in Malaysia and to ensure that every child and vulnerable person has timely access to qualified and competent social workers, when required.
Watch the Campaign Video:
¹ Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU), 2019