Six of Shenzhen's district governments signed letters of intent on Wednesday to outsource social services to nine non-governmental organizations (NGOs), making it the second pilot city, after Shanghai, to set up such a system.
According to the agreements between the parties, local governments will pay 60,000 yuan ($8,200) a year to each of the 427 social service workers from the NGOs. The money will cover their wages and welfare as well as their organizations' operational costs.
Qiu Zhankai, vice-director of Shenzhen's civil affairs bureau, said: "These workers will operate in several areas, including judicial departments, associations for the disabled, schools, civil affairs departments, women's federations, family planning agents and trade unions."
Most of the NGO workers expected to take part in the program are recent graduates with degrees in social services.
They will formally become social workers after passing the first national qualification examination for the profession in June.
The idea of social services is still new to China.
Li Ming, vice-mayor of Shenzhen, said: "We have achieved great success in economic development, but efforts to improve social conditions are lagging.
"Social services are increasingly seen as an efficient way to solve people's problems."
The NGO workers will undergo six months' probation to see how they perform, while the government collects feedback from the people and agencies they serve, Li said.
(China Daily January 11, 2008)