the Social Sector
As the world is
becoming increasingly materialistic, another trend is
distinctly evident: many young people want to do something
for society. There is a great satisfaction in doing something
for others which cannot be equalled by any high-paying job.
Even those working in full-time jobs want to do some social
work in their spare time. The social sector, indeed, offers
fulfilment of higher level needs. In the West,
dissatisfaction with the rat race causes people to opt for
jobs that help solve social problems and it is happening to
some extent in India too, though mobility is smaller in this
country. It may be said that it is noble in working for
others and help20those who may not be as privileged as we
Scope: The scope of social work is very wide. There is a need
for people who can provide help to the disadvantaged people
of society. There are centres for rehabilitation for drug
addicts, orphaned children and20people with disabilities.
Counselling, both educational and psychological, is required
these days by a large section of the population. There are
opportunities in health care, community policing, adoption,
environmental protection, culture, and so on. The areas in
which one can contribute are limitless.
The social sector consists of Non-Government Organisations
(NGOs) and institutions providing services to different
sections of society. Many are engaged in research and
publishing while others are active in20solving problems at
the grassroot problems. In the latter group, we find quite a
few celebrities and the names of Medha Patkar, Anna Hazare
and Sunderlal Bahuguna easily come to mind.
An idealistic youngster who wants to do something for the
country may, thus, be attracted to the social sector.
Fortunately, it is now more than an occupation of the idle
and is becoming professionalised to some extent Institutes
offer degrees and diplomas in social work, after which
permanent positions can be obtained in organisations.
Salaries have risen as well, with generous infusion of funds
from the government and foreign agencies.
Working in an NGO or a funding agency may in fact be quite
lucrative these days. High profile urban NGOs these days own
prime property and buildings matching the best in the
corporate sector. There are additional perquisites in teh
form of trips abroad on junkets financed by the UN and other
international agencies. Seminars are held in luxurious
hotels, causing some people to comment that talking about
poverty and pollution is one of the most upcoming professions
in our country today!
Qualifications: There are no basic qualifications to get into
the social sector: all you need is a burning desire to do
something for society. However, a Master in Social Welfare (MSW)
degree, rural management or any masters' degree in social
sciences will help. The well known institutes for these
studies are Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, the
Xavier Institute of Social Science, Ranchi, and the
Institute20of Rural Management, Anand, Degrees in environment
and forestry management are also offered by other institutes.
Apart from this, diplomas can be obtained in specific areas
like those for the hearing impaired, physically handicapped
an old age. Some organisations train volunteers themselves.
It is however, not necessary to have a formal MSW degree. If
you are qualified in any field, you can do your bit. A
lawyer, for instance, can provide free legal services to the
under-privileged. A manager can provide marketing skills to a
cooperative. Chatered accountants can act as professional
fund raisers and provide services to organisations which may
be engaged in social work and may not have resources to hire
their services. Many NGOs are engaged in publishing and they
need journalists, graphic designers and desktop publishing
experts. Teachers can join in by helping to educate poor
children. Those who have some M.Phil and Ph.D. can find jobs
in the social sector too, as much research is conducted by
the NGOs. International funding agencies, notably from
Canada, Sweden, Holland, Norway and many other countries,
have their offices in India and require professionals for
There are two distinct branches in the social sector. The
first is to work in an activist organisation which actually
helps the disadvantaged. If you have a genuine concern for
doing something for the society, look for small set-ups in
villages. The drawback is that small NGOs do not have much
funds. Moreover, working for a crusader like20Anna Hazare or
Medha Patkar involves some amount of hardship. It requires a
truly motivated person to go and stay in a village these
days, though it must be said that working with such people
can be greatly satisfying.
The second option is to work for the high profile NGOs
featured in newspapers. They publish articles and hold
seminars on wildlife conservation, environmental pollution,
child labour and AIDS awareness. Many organisations in the
country work in this way and solve problems through seminars,
making films and publishing pamphlets. Such urban NGOs have
good salary structures, so working with them is quite
lucrative in terms of money and physical comforts.
Drawbacks: A word of warning may be in order here. Few people
can make long-term careers here, since NGOs are basically
one-man organisations. Even the big NGOs are run by the
founder along with family members and friends. The founders
are highly individualistic people, lack professional
management and often, it is difficult to get along with them.
Working in an NGO may be like working in a small company.
Jobs may not be secure, especially if one wants to stand out.
Often, the director is also the principal fund-raiser and the
management style is dictatorial, though they may profess
democracy for others.
The second major problem is that many NGOs are started by
bureaucrats and politicians for the sole purpose of cornering
government funds, which they can extract because of their
influence. Such agencies have no interest in social service
or upliftment of others. The Council for Advancement of
People's Action and Rural Technoloogies (CAPART) has
blacklisted over 500 such fraudulent agencies and any
professional who worked in such an organisation would have
been very frustrated indeed. Third, NGOs are registered over
the Societies Act so the protection to workers in industries
is not available. Unlike the corporate sector, there are no
disclosure norms for NGOs. Many NGOs are known to pay less
than minimum wages and employ child labour even while
claiming to work for upliftment for the poor. It is
unfortunate that because of the activities of some
organisations, the whole sector has begun to be seen
suspiciously. The activities of some NGOs have resulted in a
bad name for the sector so one should be careful while
searching for jobs.
The solution is not to look at a career in the social sector
from a long-term prespective. One can work in the NGO for a
few years and return to profession after that. After all,
protesting about things as the Miss World and20the Yanni show
on social grounds would tend to get tedious after a while. So
would publishing books and magazines for a small number of
Options Abroad: Alternately, if one feels very strongly about
social service, one can start one's own set-up and try to
help others. Such an option must necessarily be on a
part-time basis, since generating revenues would be
difficult. In the West, voluntary work has a20different
meaning and organisations like Greenpeace have made major
impact on public policy. In20India, that kind of activism is
still a dream. So, another option for the social worker could
be to go abroad. The academic qualification for professional
social service in the US is the Baccalaureate degree in
Social Work (BSW). There are more than 380 accredited BSW
programmes available in the US. The Master of Social Welfare
is a two-year programme. Further, one can do Doctor in Social
Work (DSW) or Ph.D. in Social Work.
Salaries: The salary level for an MSW in the US is around
$30,000 per year and in hospitals a social worker who works
full-time can earn $33,000. The average salary for social
workers in the government was about $44,000 per year, in
1995. In India, a social worker can start with a salary of
about Rs 5,000 per month which may rise depending on the
organisation you work for. There are no fixed salary
structures since NGOs are highly individualistic but certain
large outfits do have pay scales.
Address for social work courses:
Diploma in Hearing, Language and Speech for the Hearing
Impaired is offered by Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for
the Hearing Handicapped, Bandra Reclamation, Bandra (W),
Mumbai - 400 050.
Courses in Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy and Mental
Retardation are offered in Cuttack, Calcutta and Secunderabad
by Rehabilitation Council of India, Vishnu Digamber Marg, New
Delhi - 110 002.
Diploma in Mental Retardation is offered in different States
by National Institute for Mentally Handicapped, Manovikas
Nagar, Secunderabad - 500 009.
PG Programme in Rural Management is offered by Institute of
Rural Management, Anand - 388 001.
MA in Social Work is offered by Tata Institute of Social
Sciences, Sion Trombay Road, Deonar, Mumbai - 400 088.
PG Course in Rural Development and Social Work is offered by
Xavier Institute of Social Service, Purulia Road, Ranchi -
MA in Social Work is offered by Kurukshetra University,
Kurukshetra - 136 119.
MA and Diploma in Social Work is offered by Lucknow
How you can work in the social sector?
It is not necessary to have a formal degree in social work.
You can do your bit no matter which profession you are in.
Here is what you can do to help.
Educators: Contribute in awareness campaigns. Provide
educational counselling services.
Doctors: Provide free medical services to the under-previleged.
Help fight drug addiction.
Psychiatrists: Provide counselling services to the mentally
disturbed. Help the physically disadvantaged.
Scientists, Engineers: Build awareness about pollution and
provide solutions for energy saving and better living.
Journalists: Awareness campaigns.
Artists, designers: Provide exhibition or educational
material for public awareness.
Lawyers: Provide free legal services to the under-priveleged.
Participate in public interest litigation.
Others: Help orphaned children, battered wives, dowry or rape
victims, adoption services.