Differences and similarities - Social work in chosen european countries

Term Paper, 2006

31 Pages, Grade: 1,3



1 Introduction

2 The term “welfare state”

3 About Germany
3.1 Social work education in Germany
3.1.1 Short excursus: The German educational system
3.2 The main tasks of social work/social pedagogy in Germany

4 About Great Britain
4.1 Social work education in Great Britain
4.1.1 Short excursus: The British educational system
4.2 The main tasks of social work/social pedagogy in great Britain

5 About France
5.1 Social work education in France
5.1.1 Short excursus: The French educational system
5.2 The main tasks of social work/social pedagogy in France

6 Social work in a changing Europe - a critical conclusion

7 Bibliography

Internet sources

1 Introduction

“So you’re studying social pedagogy. Do you think you’ll get a job after receiving your diploma?” I can’t remember how often I’ve been asked this question and I still don’t know, what to answer properly. It’s a classical, often discussed topic and even though the employment statistics are looking quite good, there is still an unsecure feeling which I share with most of my fellow-students, when looking at statistics like those: source: http://www.uni-essen.de/isa/fg_sozial_gesund/sozialwesen/sozialwesen_am_frm.htm This is a statistic concerning „Fachhochschul“-graduates of course, but including those unemployed who received their diploma at university, there is a total amount of 12.496 (2.654 from university) unemployed social workers/pedagogs for the year 2005. That makes a profession-specific unemployment rate of 7,5%, which is above-average for academic professies1.

This is why the majority of my fellow-students is thinking about the possibility of working in other european countries. Not only the current unemployment rates and the bitter cuts in our welfare system are forcing us future german social pedagogs to become familiar with the thought of leaving our home country. It’s also the fascination and a kind of curiosity of seeing how other countries are dealing with their specific social problems.

But which importance does social work have in other european countries? What are the main points concerning the work of social workers in specific european countries? What are the key themes in european social work?

These are the main questions I’d like to answer with this term paper. At first I’d like to define the term “welfare state” as a basic condition for social work. After that I’d like to shortly introduce the countries I’ve chosen for this term paper, also giving an insight into the different educational systems (to clarify the different conditions under which young people are able to receive the vocational training) and afterwards point out the different social work educations. After that I’d like to have a look at social work in a changing europe in general. At the end I’ll try to give a prospectus on the basis of the cognitions I’ve received concerning social work in Europe in general.

2 The term “welfare state”

The term “welfare state” defines a minimum social security by the state for its people. In european countries the meaning of “welfare state” includes elements of social security such as pension- and unemployment insurance, social welfare and also labour legislation, instruments of politics concerning family and active politics concerning the labour market (cp. Microsoft Encarta).

The idea of the "welfare state" means different things in different countries:

- An ideal model. The "welfare state" usually refers to an ideal model of provision, where the state accepts responsibility for the provision of comprehensive and universal welfare for its citizens.
- State welfare. Some commentators use it to mean "welfare provided by the state". This is the main use in the USA.
- Social protection. In many "welfare states", social protection is not delivered by the state at all, but by a combination of independent, voluntary and government services. These countries are still usually thought of as "welfare states".2

There is, without a doubt, a necessity of the existence of a welfare state to provide a basis for social work. The three countries I’ve chosen for this term paper are welfare states. How the term “welfare state” is defined individually, by the states themselves, I’ll explain later on.

When talking about welfare states its also important to mention that this system is heavily discussed nowadays, especially when talking about globalisation and its influence on Europe. Adams for example claims that the paradox of the modern welfare state has been exposed as being that whilst its function is to ensure that all people are integrated into society, due to the developments in the global economy, it is evidently less and less capable of achieving this task (Adams quoting Luhmann 2000:1). He also states that increasingly politicians no longer assume that the full inclusion of all people into society is possible; rather it now falls to citizens themselves, rather than the state, to take responsibility for achieving social integration (cp. Adams 2000:1).

The german transaltion “Wohlfahrtsstaat” has this negative undertone nowadays. Critics claim that the “Wohlfahrtsstaat” became a demoted „supply- and care-state“, cutting all initiative by the people. The critics also denounce that to keep up the capability of supplying the people and satisfy the increasing requirements, the efficient part of the population is burdened, even nearly exploited (cp. Microsoft Encarta).

3 About Germany

The federal republic of Germany is 356 970 km² big, which is about 880 km from north to south and 750 km from west to east. The capitol city is Berlin. Germany has about 83 million inhabitants, which makes a population density of 233 people per km². Germany has a comprehensive system of governmental social insurance, like a statutory health insurance, accident insurance, pension insurance und unemployment insurance, financed by proportional contributions of the employees, the employers as well as grants by the federation. The membership in one of the governmental insurances is obligatory for the majority of the employees (cp. Microsoft Encarta).

Concerning the social security system, Erath, Klug and Sing say that the system of social support in Germany consists of a differentiated network of various structures. There are three levels of support within the overall structure. The ‘first’ level of social security is to provide for the immediate needs of the people by means of material aid. The ‘second’ level is that of professional social work, the aim of which is to encourage people who cannot be assisted on a merely material basis to ‘help them to help themselves’ for a limited time, and the ‘third’ level comprises honorary (assistant) and voluntary social help which is intended to prevent people from getting into a situation of need, and which is to provide help in every day situations (cp. Erath/Klug/Sing 2000:56). I’m having a greater emphasis on the other countries in that point, due to the fact that I declare the German system as well known.

3.1 Social work education in Germany

At the federal level the political and legal framework for social policy and welfare programs is set (e.g. by legislation on social security, financial aid or youth work), while the states, local authorities and private organisations administer and run different programs and institutions of social work. Main areas of social work that have developed over the years are:

- work with families and youth including financial aid, counselling, day and residential care, youth centers, recreational work,
- work in health services including social services in hospitals and psychiatric clinics, health care for babies and school children, work with chronically ill or handicapped persons, prevention of alcoholism and drug addiction,
- social affairs including welfare benefits, work with the elderly and homeless, day and residential care for the elderly, work with immigrants and political refugees,
- work with delinquents including cooperation with courts within a criminal procedure (reports on the social situation of delinquents), work in prisons, probation,
- work in schools and other educational institutions. (cp. Baron/Brauns/Kramer 1986:170)

Concerning the education of social workers, Brauns and Kramer say that among the important reforms which were undertaken during the years of west German prosperity were a series of changes in the educational system (cp. 1986:173), which had a great influence. The German educational system had traditionally been highly selective and rigid. During the 1960s secondary education was restructured and expanded in the hope of providing better social equity and a more skilled work force. In the late 1960s a corresponding reform of higher education was also mandated. In connection with the reform of higher education, social work education was removed from the secondary school system and integrated into tertiary academic education (cp. ib. 173).

For a better understanding of the changes that took place, I’ll give a short excursus on the German educational system:

3.1.1 Short excursus: The German educational system

The specific feature of the german school system lies in the three elements of the macro organisation: the state-federal structure, the hierarchic structuring of the secondery level and the seperation between general and vocational education (cp. Tillmann 2001:1541). According to the author school was and is state business in Germany and even the basic law declares in art. 7: “The whole school system is to be kept under supervision by the state.” (cp. ib. 2001:1541)

Concerning the hierarchic structuring of the secondery school level, the following graphic shows best:

source: Brauns, H.-J. / Kramer, D. (1986): Social Work Education in Europe. A comprehensive description of Social Work education in 21 european countries. p. 172

This graphic shows that after the primary level, which all children attend together, parents and teachers have to decide whether to send the child to either “Gymnasium”, “Realschule” or “Hauptschule”. In this case the “Gymnasium” is the “silver bullet” to the “Abitur”, which is the highest school qualification, whereas the “Realschule” and the “Hauptschule” orientate towards lower graduations (cp.ib. 2001:1543).

The seperation between general and vocational education is based on the belief that there is pure (in terms of: not serving any purpose), very valuable “education” (for few) on the one hand and useful, not so valuable “education” (for many) on the other hand.

After 10th grade students at the “Gymnasium” prepare for college (s.a. graphic: secondery level II) whereas students at the “Realschule” and the “Hauptschule” are starting vocational training and attend vocational school (s.a. graphic). This means that from now on a nonacademic professional activity is chosen as a perspective (cp. ib. 2001:1544).

The training of social workers predominantly takes place at “Fachhochschulen” nowadays, higher educational institutions that provide professional as opposed to purely academic education. They are regarded as being “of equal value but of different kind” to universities, which has led to a practical and professional orientation which is particularly valued by charitable organisations (cp. Erath/Klug/Sing 2000:49). According to Baron, Brauns and Kramer univiersities were and still are reluctant to accept a stronger practical orientation of their study programs according to professional needs (cp. Baron/Brauns/Kramer 1986:176). That’s why graduates from university who studied social work / social pedagogy are supposed to take over jobs in the management, whereas graduates from the “Fachhochschule” are supposed to take over more practical jobs - although it has to be mentioned that it is all changing. Due to the fact that former “Diplom”-study programs are turning into “Bachelor/Master”-study programs, the education on this level is made equally. According to the authors Erath, Klug and Sing social workers in general are enjoying a high status in Germany, which is also reflected by their relatively high salaries in comparison to other european countries (cp. Erath/Klug/Sing 2000:50).

3.2 The main tasks of social work/social pedagogy in Germany

First I’d have to say that there is a certain unsecurity about the terms “social work” and “social pedagogy” which are used synonymously in Germany. The social pedagogic approach is orientated towards education and the development of social skills rather than provision of material assistance, Erath, Klug and Sing allege (cp. Erath/Klug/Sing 2000:58). Social work / social pedagogy entails that:

... personal care can be organised and performed within the framework of the social security system for individuals or groups who need care due to their age, their social status, their physical or or spiritual well being. This applies, for example, to children, young people, old people, people without permanent residence, the homeless, handicapped people, persons in need of care, and delinquents. (cp. Erath/Klug/Sing quoting Meyer 2000:58)


1 cp.: http://www.uni-essen.de/isa/fg_sozial_gesund/sozialwesen/sozialwesen_am_frm.htm

2 cp.: http://www2.rgu.ac.uk/publicpolicy/introduction/wstate.htm

Excerpt out of 31 pages


Differences and similarities - Social work in chosen european countries
University of Lüneburg  (Fakultät I: Bildungs-, Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften)
Internationale Arbeitsfelder für Pädagogen
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Differences, Social, Internationale, Arbeitsfelder, Pädagogen, englisch, Social work, Europe, Pädagogik
Quote paper
Isabel Chowanietz (Author), 2006, Differences and similarities - Social work in chosen european countries, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/65818


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