Deliver decent competitive salaries!

Fair Compensation for Teachers: A Key to Future Education Success

As education transforms, so do the roles of our teachers and other education personnel. Juggling new responsibilities alongside their traditional duties, they are stretched thinner than ever. But are they being compensated fairly for this increased workload? Discover why ensuring competitive salaries for these pivotal roles is more than a matter of fairness—it's essential for the future of education. 

Teachers in all education sectors face challenges. It is high time to ensure decent salaries for all teachers. Such an objective must be achieved through collective bargaining, collective agreements, and influencing national legislation, also taking into consideration the cost-of-living post-COVID-19, with an increase in inflation, notably in Europe. According to Eurostat, inflation in Europe reached a peak in 2023 but continues to grow, affecting the income of teachers who, with the same salaries as before, have less purchasing power.  

The recent OECD's Education at a Glance 2023 report offers significant insights into global education, examining critical areas such as accomplishment, enrolment, finance, and the organisation of education systems across different countries. The report highlights the urgent need to ensure fair salaries for all teachers and other education personnel, and it emphasises that their salaries should not be below the equivalent of other professionals with tertiary qualifications. On average, teachers in lower secondary education earn roughly 10% less than other individuals with tertiary education qualifications. Those with tertiary-level qualifications typically receive between 81% and 95% of the salaries of their counterparts in other professions. In Greece and Croatia, the salary gap between teachers and other workers with similar qualifications exceeds 30%. 

The situation in Higher Education and Research (HE&R) exacerbates issues of precarity due to short-term contracts. Many teachers in this sector experience a lack of secure income, relying solely on project-related funding and moving from one contract to another, which adds to their financial instability. 

While initial teacher salaries should be increased, it is equally crucial to ensure structured promotion paths and salary scales to support teacher retention, increase motivation, and provide certainty for their future. Providing adequate pension benefits is also integral to attracting and retaining teachers in the teaching profession. The ETUCE policy paper "Raising the Status and Improving the Attractiveness of the Teaching Profession" (2022) stresses how important higher and appealing starting salaries, along with improved salary and career progression, are to attract and retain young and novice teachers. ETUCE calls for all teachers to be trained to the highest degree level, independently in which education sector they teach, and their pay must recognise and reflect the qualifications obtained to enhance attractiveness of the teaching profession. Equal pay for equal work and work of equal value must be respected in all sectors. 

In many education systems, teachers' salaries increase according to the level of education they teach. ETUCE insists that equal status and value should be placed on early childhood teachers' education compared to education professionals in other education sectors, and improvements are needed for teachers in the vocational education and training (VET) sector who often face inferior treatment in terms of contracts and salaries.  

A recent example where collective bargaining had a beneficial impact on teachers’ salaries, comes from Switzerland, with the action from education trade unions VPOD, SER, LCH and others, regarding the salaries of early childhood education (ECE) teachers. There, due to the decentralised structure, where early childhood education operated separately from primary schooling, leading to relevant disparities in the remuneration of teachers, despite similar qualifications and responsibilities. The Swiss education trade unions took action highlighting the issue as a matter of gender equality due to most early childhood education teachers being women. Consequently, as of January 2023, all ECE teachers in Switzerland now receive equal pay to primary education teachers, marking a significant change in the pursuit of fair salaries in the education sector. 

When it comes to career progression, however, great differences still exist across countries. In fact, teachers' salaries increase at varying rates throughout their careers across different countries, with significant differences in the competitiveness of salaries and the time required to reach the top of the pay scale. For instance, it takes 35 years for teachers in France to reach the top of the scale, contrasting sharply with the 7-year timeframe in New Zealand (OECD, 2023). 

ETUCE fights for increasing teachers’ salaries and tackling the gender pay gap, within each education sector as well as between different education levels and leadership roles. Gender disparities in the teaching profession are attributed to varying salary expectations for women and men relative to prospects in other fields. The further examination of pay gaps resulting from other inequality characteristics and differences between public and private education institutions, along with geographical disparities, is an ETUCE demand to effectively address discrimination. 

Fair salaries and favourable working conditions for teachers are the key to ensuring quality and inclusive education for all and to counter the growing shortage of teachers by increasing the attractiveness of the teaching profession.