Fresh grads in social work get much better pay now

Graduates standing as they listen to the National anthem at the National University of Singapore Commencement ceremony held at the University Cultural Centre on July 7, 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

A fresh graduate who aspires to be a social worker today can command a pay of $3,270, according to the latest salary guidelines released by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS).

Back in 2011, the starting pay recommended for a social worker was $2,400.

This means that the salary difference between a graduate social worker and other graduates has been reduced from 25 to 2.8 per cent between 2011 and 2017.

In the broader job market, fresh graduates' starting pay has hit a new high of $3,360 a month, according to the latest graduate employment survey that polled 10,904 fresh graduates last November.

Apart from social work, jobseekers who are keen to apply for the 3,000 job openings in the sector can look out for positions such as gerontologists, therapists and early intervention teachers.

An experienced senior therapist can command a salary of about $5,870, while a newbie psychologist can earn $3,880.

About four in 10 people in the sector now are involved in supportive roles such as therapy aides and home care workers. These people have starting salaries of between $1,320 and $1,780, and it can increase to $2,210 when they are fully proficient.

When it comes to leadership positions, heads of large charities with an operational budget of up to $25 million can earn between $11,640 and $14,550.

As social service organisations expand, many of them need to fill positions in corporate functions urgently. These include staff handling human resource, communications, fund-raising and administrative roles. With an A-level certificate, a proficient clerical officer can earn about $2,100. About three in 10 people in the sector now take up such corporate roles.

NCSS is bringing in top human resource consultants to work directly with charities to support them in attracting and retaining talent. About 100 social service organisations have signed up so far.

The ability to retain staff is a key area to look into as the sector had a "leakage rate" of 8.5 per cent last year. NCSS is working to lower the percentage of workers leaving the sector every year to 6.5 per cent by 2018.

Mr Fermin Diez, deputy chief executive officer of NCSS, said one reason workers in the sector leave is emotional burnout, a common problem for employees in the caring line. The council is studying the issue and has introduced mindfulness programmes for workers.

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Janice Tai

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2017, with the headline Fresh grads in social work get much better pay now. Subscribe