Indian social work has entered into 74th year of its inception. It is the age of experience and wisdom but even after so many years’ social work profession has not yet been fully accepted in the country. The profession still struggling to get sanctions from the common and uncommon people, now it is high time to identify the reasons as to why the noble and pious subject has not been able to get what it deserves to get in the country. From my experiences, I could sense that the social work profession has not yet been established as a need-based profession. Unlike the western world, here in India client does not reach a social worker, rather a social worker searches for the client.

The professional social work borrowed from the USA and UK, the concepts, theories, methods as well as methodology derived from European literature. Social casework, social group work, and community organization are the three primary methods of social work with three auxiliary methods of social work proving unpopular in Indian society. One accepted reason is the difference that lies between Indian society and the western world. As it is the widely known fact that ‘literature is the reflection of the ideas of the society.

The literature and ideas that flowed upward from the root and soil of the society to the social scientist and social work educators were the outcomes of the European civilization. But the needs of Indian society were different; our goals are altogether different from the west. Mass poverty, illiteracy, and ignorance that prevail widely in India and the Indian subcontinent are the toughest proposition to handle by professional social work, but unfortunately, professional social workers failed to redress these issues of the masses. Therefore, now in India, we can see loud voices advocating dramatic change in the outlook and attire of the social work profession. Undoubtedly, to make a makeover of professional social work in India we need indigenous literature as well as we need to adopt local solutions for local problems. The present article is a small attempt to provide the condition of social work in India.

Beginning of Social Work Education in India

Social work education in India started in the year 1936 as an adaptation of the education program in the United States of America, where social welfare service were meant “to assist the people in their adjustment to an industrial, urban and metropolis dominated social milieu.”(UGC,1978 Para 1:16) Social work profession in India begun from the efforts of the house of Tata’s. The Tata Institute of Social Sciences of today was initially named after Sir Dorabji Tata and was known as Sir Dorabji Tata Graduate School of Social Work, in the beginning institute awarded the Post Graduate Diploma in Social Service Administration. The school got recognition by the University Grants Commission in the year 1964 and the diploma converted into a master degree course. After the establishment of Sir Dorabji Tata Graduate School of Social Work many other university also adopted the newly launched MA social work program. The pioneer universities to establish social work department in India were-University of Delhi (1946), Department of Social Work,Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth,Varanasi (1947), Faculty of Social Work, MS University,Vadodara (1950), Indore School of Social Work (1952),Madras School of Social Work, Chennai (1952), College of Social Work, Nirmala Niketan,Mumbai (1955), Udaipur School of Social Work (1959), Karve Institute of Social Sciences,Pune (1963), Department of Social Work, Loyala College of Social Sciences, Thiruvaanantpuram (1963) and Department of Social Work, Jamia Islamia (1967) New Delhi were amongst the first few departments of social work in India.

Milestones achieved in India: At a Glance




Sir Dorabji Tata Graduate School of Social Work


The Indian Journal of Social Work was started by TISS


The first book on social work called students and social work was published by TISS


The International social work was started by International conference of social work and International association of school of social work with base in Mumbai


Lucknow university journal of social work was started by the department of social work of lucknow university, now called ‘Contemporary Social Work’.


Indian Association of Trained Social Worker (IATSW) started publishing a journal called social work forum.


The first edition of encyclopedia of social work was published by the planning commission.


Social Work forum stopped being published.


A journal called perspectives in social work was started by the college of social work Nirmala Niketan Institute.


The second edition of encyclopedia of social work in India was published by the Ministry of Welfare,New Delhi.


National Journal of Professional Social Work was started by the Indian Society of Professional Social Work.

Problems of Social Work Education in India

As far as higher education is concerned in India, there are many problems, many faculties at the postgraduate level facing many problems peculiar to themselves. Some of the common problems are problems related to communication, acceptance, language, curriculum, etc. The profession of social work has the same problems. Some problems are common to higher education in India while some problems are peculiar to social work subject only. One of the most perceived problems in India is the problem of the communication of knowledge. Undoubtedly most of the available books in social work libraries are written in the English language. Although, English is known to be an International language, commonly accepted by the Indians acceptance of foreign language and absence of literature in indigenous language has deteriorated the level of education in general, and especially things have become difficult for the students coming from the rural hinterland of the country. Many students find difficulties in grasping the concepts, theories written and explained in the English language, much of their time is invested in either translating or understanding the books written in an alien language. Though, at the same time subject matter and literature available in the Indian language is either poorly constructed or translated from another book. This results in the fall of standards, comprehension, clarity, and expression among aspirants of social work subjects. The dearth of pure Indian literature has created many problems among social work educators. Another problem is the gap between Indian and International social conditions. The international social work talks much about problems related to individuals, care of the aged, children, etc., they focus higher on behavioral problems and seek answers from clinical social work. The problems in India are entirely different, we have problems of poverty, population, illiteracy, ignorance, governance, unemployment, etc. Available social work literature rarely focuses on how to combat these giant problems.

In the case of methods of social work also find similar problems. The internationally accepted six methods are not universally applicable. These methods must be altered according to the social conditions of a particular society, otherwise, they will not be able to make a mark and may result in unacceptance. Methods like social casework are good but they could be better if developed and refined to suit the Indian mindset. Here, Indianization has a role to play with social work methods. Another problem of social work in India is the problem of social work as a profession. Indian society is more service-oriented and considers social work activity not confined to a few individuals rather Vedic literature highlights social service as an ultimate service every individual should perform through various mentioned ways for their countrymen. Therefore, the orientation of common men towards professional social work is full of ambiguity. Thus, professional social work does not enjoy the status and position in a satisfied manner. Though, professional social work is gaining importance among people in metropolis and urban areas.

The early history of social work education indicated an emphasis on the study of labor welfare, personnel management, and industrial relations. In the thirties, till seventies, social workers in India were largely serving in industries and looking after basic amenities for laborers in industries like canteens, crèches, recreational programs, salary administration, welfare, safety, etc. The social workers were recruited in industries to ensure the implementation of the Factories Act 1948 and Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. As it is mandatory to employ a welfare officer in industries where five hundred or more employees are employed. The creation of job opportunities in the industries has created a dilemma among social work aspirants. The dilemma continues as it is a buzzword among academicians now ‘whether we should consider labor welfare and personnel management as our specialization or not.’ It is a specialized skill and now a management subject however, human resource management and personnel management are taught as a field of specialization in Indian social work colleges, but these highly employable specialization is facing tough competition with management studies nowadays.

In addition to this another problem of social work education is that it failed to attract bright students. Even in the best of times, social work education did not attract the cream of the student. Though social work philosophy rejects the concept of ‘creamy students’ but categorically if we assess we will find that the so-called bright student's list of preferable career choices is medical, engineering, administration, banking, finance, etc. in this list social work appears last. Though these generalizations are not true as many bright students are choosing social work every year in all schools of social work in India, their numbers seem to be dwindling. The nihility of professionally trained social work teachers is also one of the problems social work in India is facing today. When we insist on professionally trained teacher we not only mean UGC NET qualified teachers but also means a well-experienced teacher who has empirical knowledge of the field. A teacher having NET qualifications but no knowledge base of grass-root realities will find it hard to train students. If a teacher who had already worked in any industry for a few years would be the best person to share the problems of laborers in industry or trade unions or a teacher who had already worked in NGOs could confidently explain how to fetch the projects from funding agencies. Without the presence of a regulatory body for social work education in India, the degree of social work can be grabbed through regular as well as distance modes. With all the positives distance mode education has there is an urgent need to assess what degrees are suitable to be awarded through distance mode and whatnot. Only last year UGC banned all universities to grant B.Tech. degree through distance mode because of the nature of the subject (technical as well as practical). Social work is a pragmatic and field-oriented subject, our uniqueness is concurrent fieldwork training that can’t be given through distance mode. So many universities imparting M.A. in social work or M.S.W. through distance mode, eventually passing on merely degrees without much professional knowledge.

Another problem is related to unemployment. The problem of unemployment has been related to the problem of acceptance. Because of lack of acceptance among government and industries, highly specialized posts which otherwise should be filled with professional social workers are filled from professionals belonging to sociology, psychology, home science, etc. which in turn, creates unemployment among social work professionals. The most pivotal among all other problems social work in India faces is the problem of the absence of social work council. A government-recognized council is necessary to regulate social work institutes and the social work profession as a whole. Recently, a social work council bill was introduced in the lower house of the parliament but it failed to draw the attention of other parliamentarians, thus a good move went in vain. In the absence of social work council colleges providing social work, education has no uniform pattern of the entrance, admission, curricula, teaching pedagogy, and evaluation. Resulting in disorderly trained professionals, closely connected to this is the problem of mushroom growth of social work education institutions in the country. In the year 2002, there were merely 125 social work institutes throughout the country (Desai Murali,2002). The emergence of several institutions of social work education to a lot extent compromised from the quality of education is unproductive for the professional health of social work in India.