Child welfare agencies in many rich countries are having difficulty recruiting and retaining social workers. However, these problems are not unique to child welfare: retention problems have also been widely reported in both mental and general health facilities. In this paper, we compare the perceptions of work and working conditions held by child welfare social workers with the perceptions held by other professional human service workers in the public sector in Sweden. Do the social workers' experiences of their tasks or organizational conditions differ from the other groups, and, if so, how? Are workforce problems particularly acute in child welfare, or do social workers in this field share more or less common problems with other human service professionals? We found that although social workers in general, and child welfare social workers in particular, made positive assessments of some dimensions of their working lives, social work was unusually demanding among human service professions on several measures of workload, complexity of tasks and quality of management. The strains of the job that social workers expressed call upon employers to promote working conditions that offer more support, and to recognize and value social workers for their work.