HONOLULU — Social work jobs in Hawaii are often filled by immigrants and other people of color, a new study has found.
The findings, released Monday, show that social workers and other health care workers often face discrimination and harassment by employers and the U.S. government.
The study was conducted by the Hawaii Institute for Social Research and published by the American Psychological Association.
It’s one of the first studies to document the effects of social workers’ use of social desis in the workplace.
“We can’t really measure it because there’s no way to know how much of the bias is psychological and how much is physical,” said study co-author John A. McArthur, associate professor of social work at the Hawaii School of Social Work.
“But there’s a strong correlation between the degree of social and labor segregation in Hawaii.”
The study found that of the 2,400 social workers employed in the state, a quarter had reported experiencing a social worker of color.
“That means that over 50 percent of all social workers in Hawaii have experienced some form of social worker discrimination,” McArthur said.
“The fact that that is a substantial portion of the social work workforce is pretty striking.”
McArthur and his co-authors compared the use of the term “social worker” and “social desi” in a list of terms used by employers, health care providers, and government agencies in Hawaii.
“If the term ‘social worker’ is used more frequently in employment terms, then it is a more accurate description of social professionals,” McArtras study said.
For example, a health care provider would not be calling someone a social work therapist.
But if the word was used more often, it could be a sign of an intentional attempt to distance the social worker from her or his profession.
“It’s a very problematic practice that many health care practitioners would do if they were trying to hire a social workers because of the racial and ethnic stereotypes that are associated with the profession,” McArthurs study said, noting that it’s “not uncommon for people of colour to be perceived as social workers.”
The authors found that while most health care professionals are white, about 12 percent of the health care workforce is made up of people of Hispanic ethnicity, African American, Asian, or Native Hawaiian descent.
They said that this was “likely to be a result of an ongoing process of desiization that has been occurring for decades” in Hawaii’s health care sector.
The researchers said that they also found that social work workers were more likely to face negative treatment by employers.
“Although most social work jobs require some degree of education and training, there are many instances of individuals who have less than high school diplomas or no formal education at all, or in some cases, less than a high school education,” the study said in its findings.
“This is often the case because employers do not know the professional background of the person being hired, or they do not have a clear understanding of the type of social skills that will be required to work in that role.”
McArths study found also that social and other workers were less likely to be given a job because of their race or ethnicity, while people of Color were more often hired for their social and technical skills.
McArthy said the research should be “a wake-up call to employers and health care and other social workers that it is time to address the discriminatory practices of social service providers in order to improve their hiring practices and training and to ensure that all social service professionals have access to the resources they need.”
The researchers also said that while the lack of diversity in Hawaii is a problem in other parts of the country, Hawaii has the highest concentration of social services in the country.
“In the last decade, the percentage of Hawaiian-born residents who are employed as a social service provider has grown from 7.5 percent to 18.6 percent,” the authors wrote.
The authors said that although the practice of social, cultural, and linguistic desi is not widespread in the U: “Hawaii is home to a vibrant and diverse community of social agents, including those who work in many different sectors, including the health and human services and health professions.””
I think the fact that we have this disproportionate number of social people of different backgrounds that have the ability to be part of that workforce is a big issue,” Hana said.
The authors said that although the practice of social, cultural, and linguistic desi is not widespread in the U: “Hawaii is home to a vibrant and diverse community of social agents, including those who work in many different sectors, including the health and human services and health professions.”