New jobs are on offer. And there are 1.8 million of them.
As part of a government plan, 2 million qualified social workers will be employed on the mainland by the end of 2015, said a Ministry of Civil Affairs official on Tuesday.
To ensure that happens, the government intends to adopt payment guidelines and other motivation policies.
"China lacks the number of social workers it must have to meet the public's increasing needs," said Huang Shengwei, chief of the ministry's first social work division. "And currently, most social workers have not received professional training."
Incomplete statistics from the ministry show that there are about 200,000 social workers in the Chinese mainland. Of them, though, only about a quarter have passed the exams they must take to be licensed to do social work.
Most social workers are concentrated in Beijing, Shanghai and other big cities, while vast rural expanses, especially those in the country's center and west, are home to hardly anyone in that line of work, Huang said at a news conference held in Beijing.
Every year, 250 higher educational institutions in China graduate about 10,000 students who majored in social work. In 2006, nearly 60 percent of them chose to work in other occupations, although fewer and fewer are making the same decision every year, Huang said, citing surveys conducted by the Ministry of Education.
Social workers' low incomes and the lack of promotion opportunities that they have are the causes of many graduates' decisions to pursue different careers.
"I earn about 2,000 yuan ($316) a month, so I still have to turn to my parents for money to pay for my living expenses," said Peng Bin, who has been a social worker for 15 months in the Haidian district in Beijing.