The Department of Social Development says that South Africa has a critical shortage of social service professionals, but government departments have effectively hit their limit in the number of workers they can absorb.

Responding in a written parliamentary Q&A this week, social development minister Lindiwe Zulu said that the government has tried to address the shortage of social service workers by setting up the Social Work Scholarship Programme.

However, beneficiaries of the programme have not been placed in the Department of Social Development or in the Department of Basic Education to be sent to schools where they are needed.

This is due to “budget constraints across the whole of government,” Zulu said.

She said that there is a critical shortage of social service professional skills in the country and that this has been acknowledged as one of the challenges for the social sector in the National Development Plan (NDP).

“To address this, the Department of Social Development is leading the Intersectoral Forum that is coordinating efforts in the development of a Draft Sector Strategy that seeks to bring on board sector departments for employment of social workers across government, including DBE (and) Health.

“The sector departments will submit a joint bid to the National Treasury to obtain funds for the recruitment and permanent employment of social work graduates,” Zulu said.

The minister recently said that workers who have gone through the department’s scholarship programme will find work, not only through the DSD and other departments but also through the private sector.

Speaking to the SABC, a group of unemployed social workers have lashed out at the department, saying that the Zulu and the DSD are discriminating against workers who have not gone through the scholarship programme.

What social workers get paid in South Africa

Salary tracking websites, PayScale, Indeed and place the average salary for a social worker in South Africa within a broad range of R188,000 to R300,000 per year.

A more official tracking of nursing salary data can be found through public service social worker salaries.

Like many other public service workers, social workers in South Africa have not benefited from massive salary hikes over the last two years, with the third year of negotiated wage agreements (2021) between unions and the government falling away to an incremental rise in pay.

Effective July 2021, public service workers saw only a 1.5% increase in salaries, with a small cash bonus offered to those on lower salary bands.

Among social workers, child and youth care workers remain the lowest paid at between R143,073 and R190,575 per year – or R11,900 to R15,900 per month.

The highest earners, meanwhile, are social work and community development managers, who can earn as much as R1.12 million a year (R93,000 per month).

The table below outlines some of the main nursing roles and their pay.

Role Salary Scale Minimum (lowest grade) Maximum (highest grade)
Child and Youth Care Worker 1 – 5 R143 073 R190 575
Child and Youth Care Team Leader 1 – 6 R190 575 R220 923
Assistant Community Developer 1 – 9 R143 073 R256 113
Social Auxiliary Worker 1 – 9 R150 438 R269 301
Child and Youth Care Supervisor 1 – 5 R202 176 R269 301
Community Developer 1 – 11 R220 923 R438 945
Community Development Supervisor 1 – 7 R369 258 R524 121
Social Worker 1 – 8 R261 456 R589 896
Community Policy Developer 1 – 11 R312 183 R589 896
Social Work Policy Developer 1 – 11 R369 258 R589 896
Community Development Assistant Manager 1 – 5 R494 037 R663 942
Social Work Supervisor 1 – 15 R389 991 R725 517
Social Work Manager / Policy Manager / Community Development Manager / Community Policy Manager 1 – 6 R806 811 R1 116 831

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