Building a sustainable workforce for the challenges of tomorrow

Today we join others around the globe in celebrating World Social Work Day 2024, acknowledging the role of social workers and the incredible work they do for communities and whānau. As part of marking this day, we are delighted to be publishing our Annual Social Worker Workforce Report 2023 which provides unique insights into the workforce here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

World Social Work Day

The theme of World Social Work Day is ‘Buen Vivir: Shared Future for Transformative Change’.  

The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) explains that the theme ‘resonates with the contemporary challenges and aspirations of social work around the globe… social work must evolve and adopt innovative, transformative approaches that are community-led and steeped in indigenous wisdom.’

Annual Social Worker Workforce Report 2023

A workforce motivated to make a difference

The Annual Social Worker Workforce Report 2023 is based on survey responses from more than half of the current social worker workforce. From this, we know that we have a workforce that is motivated to make a difference to people’s lives. This is one of the top reasons for social workers to join the workforce in the first place, and then to remain working as a social worker.

Representation of Māori, and Pacific Peoples in the social work profession is growing

We also know that social work practice is well-placed to be grounded in indigenous wisdom – a need described in the World Social Work Day theme. Almost a quarter of our social workers describe themselves as Māori, compared with the general population (which is 17% Māori according to the 2018 Census). This is a greater proportion of Māori social workers than the previous year. The proportion of Pacific Peoples social workers is also higher than the general population. This makes the social work profession more representative of the clients it serves than many other regulated professions.

Social workers are a qualified, respected workforce

Other findings show that social workers are a qualified and experienced workforce, and that the profession is better respected since it became law for social workers to be registered and regulated.

Recruitment and retention issues are a challenge to sustainability

However, survey responses also highlighted pressures across the system to sustain the workforce, with recruitment and retention being identified as key and urgent challenges to be addressed.

Planning for the future

World Social Work Day and the publication of the Annual Social Worker Workforce Report both provide an opportunity to reflect on the value of the workforce, while highlighting the need for further planning and development for the profession. The report supports key decision makers, workforce planners, and those who are responsible for service delivery across the health and social service system, to build a sustainable workforce, ensuring that they have the right professionals, in the right place to deliver high quality social work services for New Zealanders. This will enable social workers to continue their work for transformative change responding to both local and international challenges.

You can download the report:

SWRB Annual Social Worker Workforce Report 2023