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Strengthening Social Service Delivery through Workforce Development in the Middle East and North Africa Region

Nicole Brown's picture
A regional consultation on strengthening the social service workforce is taking place from September 30 - October 2 in Tunisia. Hosted by the UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Office with support from the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance and the World Bank, the consultation brings together government, academia, social work associations, UNICEF and UN agencies, the World Bank, and other key stakeholders from 11 countries for developing and strengthening action plans, key messages and engagement of other stakeholders toward strengthening the social service workforce in each country and regionally within the Middle East and North Africa. Fifty participants are taking part in the three-day consultation.


This consultation follows an extensive process to map and analyze the social service workforce within the region. Over the course of 12-months, the Alliance led this multi-country review which entailed a participatory process led by government and included technical support from Maestral International. Countries involved in the mapping all established country task groups who worked together to collect mapping data, verify findings, develop action plans and contribute to regional recommendations. The regional review with these findings and recommendations was launched on September 30 and serves as the foundation for the consultation underway in Tunisia.


Cover of the reportThe Multi-Country Review of the State of the Social Service Workforce in the Middle East and Africa Region Report shows that gaps in workforce support and funding negatively affect the quality and effectiveness of social services, leading to missed opportunities for protecting children and improving the well-being of the region’s most vulnerable populations. The report is a review of the social service workforce in eight countries: Djibouti, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan and Tunisia.


Highlights from the report include:

  • There are many countries within the region that have made great progress in planning, developing and supporting their social service workforce, through establishing policies, codes of ethics, minimum standards, licensing, registration, and training and degree programs. Learnings from these countries can be applied to support countries still in the early stages of workforce development.
  • Low ratios of social service workers to child population reduce access to and quality of care. The number of workers per 100,000 children ranges within the eight countries from 19 to 140. The global target ratio is 2000 workers for every 100,000 children.
  • Lack of available data on this workforce negatively affects allocations of proper human and financial resources, resulting in decreased quality and availability of services.
  • With up to 173 different job titles for social service workers reported, comparing data across countries can be challenging; however, this also highlights progress and importance of cultural and contextual application of titles between English, French and Arabic.
The engagement of stakeholders across sectors in each country and across countries in the region shows that many of the challenges faced by this workforce are similar in different countries and contexts, and thus provides an opportunity for regional and international collaboration to address these challenges.


"Tunisia is honored to host this regional workshop and to share its accumulated experiences in the field of social services development," said Mohamed Trabelsi, Minister of Social Affairs, Tunisia. "Governments, civil society organizations and international partners are increasingly working to strengthen their role. This investment is fundamental to ensuring they have the capacity and means for early identification of children and vulnerable people and to provide them with the necessary support and follow-up."


UNICEF MENA Deputy Regional Director Bertrand Bainvel said, "An effective social service system provides a wide range of services that contribute to a vital social safety net for vulnerable groups, especially children. Social service workers represent the backbone of an integrated child protection system. The need is urgent, and this is what we are working on developing this week."


For its part, the World Bank Group is investing in the development of social service workers and digital systems to support this workforce in being more efficient toward achieving economic inclusion and addressing poverty.


News of the consultation and its anticipated outcomes are being shared within local media. Read the press statement. Bainvel also joined a radio interview in Tunisia on September 30.


The workshop will lead to a roadmap to strengthen the social service workforce in the region and encourage governments and donors to invest more in the region's social systems.

Follow us on social media for updates from the consultation:
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UNICEF works in over 190 countries and territories to save children’s lives, to defend their rights, and to help them fulfil their potential, from early childhood through adolescence. UNICEF works with partners around the world to promote policies and expand access to services that protect all children. UNICEF’s 2018-2021 Strategic Plan includes as one of its goals to strengthen the social service workforce for child protection. Learn more at


The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance aims to promote the knowledge and evidence, resources and tools, and political will and action needed to address key social service workforce challenges, especially within low- to middle-income countries. The Alliance acts as a convener to share good practices, advance knowledge and advocate for workforce improvements to lead to better outcomes for children and families. Members of the Alliance span 136 countries. Learn more at