Sixteen European countries have reduced or frozen teachers' salaries in response to the economic downturn.
Teachers in Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Slovenia are the worst affected by budget restrictions and austerity measures, according to a report published by the European Commission to coincide with World Teachers' Day. Teachers' salaries in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, United Kingdom, Croatia and Liechtenstein have fallen slightly or stayed the same. However, the Teachers' and School Heads' Salaries and Allowances in Europe 2011/12 report also shows that in four countries, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Iceland, teachers' salaries have increased since mid-2010, while pay in Romania is now almost back to pre-crisis levels.
"Teachers play a vital role in the lives of children and, as everyone knows, can make all the difference to their future," said Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. "Teachers' remuneration and working conditions should be a top priority in order to attract and retain the best in the profession. But attracting the best teachers is not just about pay: it is imperative that classrooms are well-equipped and that teachers have a proper say on modernising curricula and education reforms."
The report shows that, from mid-2010, the economic crisis had taken its toll on teachers’ pay, with increasing numbers of countries cutting both salaries and allowances such as holiday pay and bonuses. Greece reduced teachers' basic salaries by 30% and stopped paying Christmas and Easter bonuses. Ireland cut salaries for new teachers by 13% in 2011 and those appointed after 31 January this year faced a further 20% drop in pay due to the abolition of qualification allowances. In Spain, salaries of teachers and other public sector employees were cut in 2010 by around 5% and not adjusted to inflation since; similar measures have been applied in Portugal.
In Europe, the maximum salary for senior teachers is generally twice as high as the minimum salary for newcomers. But considering it takes 15-25 years on average to earn the maximum salary, teaching organisations fear that young people may be discouraged from entering the profession.
While entry-level salaries for teachers tend to be unattractive, when allowances for additional responsibilities or overtime are taken into account, most are close to the maximum statutory pay level for teachers in many European countries. For example, in Latvia, actual take-home pay is nearly twice as high as the maximum basic salary. In Denmark, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Finland, England and Wales, take-home pay is also higher than the maximum basic salary when allowances are added. This can to some extent be explained by the fact that a relatively high share of teachers are in older age groups. Several countries are facing teacher shortages and have concerns over an ageing workforce ('Key Data on Education in Europe 2012', IP/12/121).