OECD Observer
Teachers’ pay: Mind the mid-career gap

It is often said that the most important ingredient in a successful classroom is the teacher. So are we paying them enough? Take primary school. Education of children in their early years is critically important, and attracting teachers to primary schools is a key challenge. By 2018 in the OECD area primary teachers’ pay at the start of a career ranged from just less than $15,000 in Latvia to nearly $75,000 in Luxembourg. In some 20 of the 35 OECD countries in the chart, starting salaries fall in the $20-40,000 range. Teachers in most of these countries can look to quite sharp increases in salaries by mid-career. For instance, they jump from around $40,000 to over $60,000 in Ireland and to over $65,000 in Canada.

However, in France, Sweden and Turkey, primary teachers who have 15 years of teaching behind them earn just a few thousand more than starting salaries. As OECD education expert Eric Charbonnier has put it in the case of France, it is these mid-career teachers, who suffer the widest gap compared with other OECD countries.

In fact, an examination of teachers’ pay in France, including the likes of bonuses and overtime, shows that in 2017 teachers aged between 25 and 64 and working in secondary schools earned a little more than the OECD average, thanks to bonuses, whereas those working in primary schools earned less than this average.

And while statutory salaries for French primary-school teachers are 7% lower than the OECD average for those at the start of their career, they were 22% lower for mid-career teachers, who suffer the widest gap. At the end of the teaching career, the gap narrows to 2%.

After fifteen years of teaching, a French primary-school teacher earns roughly half the statutory salary of a
teacher in Germany, 12% less than in Finland and 30% less than in England (UK).

See OECD (2019), Teachers’ salaries (indicator), https://doi.org/10.1787/f689fb91-en, https://data.oecd.org/eduresource/teachers-salaries.htm

© OECD Observer No 319 Q3 2019