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Job demands, resources, and task performance in Chinese social workers: Roles of burnout and work engagement

  • Tu, Bin1
  • Luo, Xiaoting2
  • Sitar, Sophie3
  • Huang, Chienchung4
  • 1 Guangdong Research Center for NPO, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou , (China)
  • 2 School of Public Administration, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou , (China)
  • 3 Law School, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Newark, NJ , (United States)
  • 4 School of Social Work, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ , (United States)
Published Article
Frontiers in Public Health
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Jul 19, 2022
DOI: 10.3389/fpubh.2022.908921
  • Public Health
  • Original Research


Social work is a rapidly developing occupation in China. In the early 2000s, there were merely a few hundred thousand social workers, but by 2020 there were over 1.5 million social workers in the field. However, research has indicated these social workers are also experiencing record high burnout and turnover rates. Thus, researchers have started to question the work engagement and task performance factors that could be contributing to these increasing rates. This study uses the Job Demands and Resources (JD-R) Theory to understand how 537 social workers from Guangzhou, China are impacted by burnout and how it influences work engagement and task performance. The results show JD-R directly affect task performance through burnout and work engagement via a dual process. First, job demands were associated with high burnout and low work engagement, which both were found to lead to low task performance. Second, job resources were related to low burnout rates and high work engagement, both of which were associated with high task performance. These findings call for healthcare interventions to reduce burnout and workplace policy changes to promote work engagement to support task performance in social workers in China. These factors can each have a crucial impact on the public health of both the affected social workers and the vulnerable clients these social workers serve.

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