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Who is the social service workforce?

A volunteer child protection worker speaks with a client in Bangladesh

The social service workforce is an inclusive concept referring to a broad range of governmental and nongovernmental professionals and paraprofessionals who work with children, youth, adults, older persons, families and communities to ensure healthy development and well-being. The social service workforce focuses on preventative, responsive and promotive services that are informed by the humanities and social sciences, Indigenous knowledges, discipline-specific and interdisciplinary knowledge and skills, and ethical principles. Social service workers engage people, structures and organizations to: facilitate access to needed services, alleviate poverty, challenge and reduce discrimination, promote social justice and human rights, and prevent and respond to violence, abuse, exploitation, neglect and family separation.

The social service workforce constitutes a broad array of practitioners, researchers, managers and educators, including – but not limited to: social workers, social educators, social pedagogues, child care workers, youth workers, child and youth care workers, community development workers/community liaison officers, community workers, welfare officers, social/cultural animators and case managers. While social work and social pedagogy have the advantage of history, and are quite dominant in the sector, other categories of professionals and paraprofessionals have evolved over time and make invaluable contributions to ensuring human well-being and development.   

Given the diversities across contexts, this definition may be amplified at national and/or regional levels.

Read the full commentary for additional information on the roles, titles and diversity of this workforce.