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Does school pay?

People are by far the most important input when building quality education. So it is little surprise that teachers’ salaries represent the largest single cost item in the labour intensive education system. Salaries and working conditions play an important role in attracting, motivating and retaining skilled teachers. Teachers are the backbone of the education sector which is a crucial determinant of productivity and growth.

Are teachers’ pay levels up to the task? The annual statutory gross basic wages of lower secondary teachers with 15 years of experience range from less than US$15,000 in Estonia, the Slovak Republic and Hungary to over $60,000 in Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands in 2011. The average for OECD member countries reaches nearly $40,000.

Becoming a teacher requires a tertiary degree. How do teachers’ salaries compare with those of their peers who have invested roughly the same time, money and effort to gain a comparable level of education?

In almost all OECD countries, teachers’ gross wages are lower than the average annual gross wages for employees with a similar level of education. In Spain, Korea, Luxembourg and Portugal, teachers earn more. In New Zealand, Canada, Germany and Finland, teachers’ statutory salaries are almost equal to the average earnings of tertiary-educated workers. However, in the Slovak Republic, Iceland, Italy and Austria, teachers’ salaries are considerably below the average earnings of workers with a tertiary degree.

See www.oecd.org/education/ and http://www.oecd.org/education/school/34990905.pdf

©OECD Observer No 297, Q4 2013