The Slovak education system has a number of problems but the generally low teacher salary is not one of them. Those who claim the opposite refer to an international comparison: the share of teachers’ wages in wages of university-educated people. Even the government reform plan says that this share reaches 88% on average in the EU, while Slovakia scores a little above 70%. This difference is identified as one of the main reasons why there is a necessity for a blanket pay rise for teachers in Slovakia.
However, comparing teachers’ wages with wages of university-educated people across countries offers a distorted image. An important factor in such a comparison is the wage premium of a university degree in a given country.
This premium can differ across countries for a number of reasons. It depends on what proportion of people have the degree, what kind of university and programme they graduated from, in which sectors they work or what their average age is.
If this premium is relatively low in a given country, wages of university-educated people will, of course, not differ significantly from the average wage in the economy. Arithmetically speaking, the difference between teacher salary and salary of people with university degree will thus be lower. In an international comparison, this creates an impression that from the point of view of share of teachers’ wages in wages of people with university degree the teachers in such country are highly remunerated.
Conversely, if the average wage premium for a university degree is high, then the wages of teachers will tend to reach a lower share in an international comparison.
The fact that this arithmetic logic holds true even in real life can be seen in comparison of the Nordic countries and the V4 countries. Countries like Denmark, Estonia, Finland and Sweden have relatively low wage premium for a university degree. On average, a university-educated person receives 133 % of the average wage in these countries.
At the same time, the wages of elementary school teachers reach a relatively high share in wages of university-educated people – 86% on average.
It is a whole different story in the V4 countries – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. A university degree brings a relatively high wage premium here, reaching 162% on average.
At the same time, the wages of elementary school teachers represent only relatively low share in wages of university-educated people – 70% on average. Then, there is the USA, which represents an extreme example. A university degree brings a premium of 176% here, and teachers’ wages make up only62 % of wages of university-educated people.
For these reasons, comparing teachers’ wages with the average wage is a much better indicator of the level of teachers’ remuneration. In this regard, Slovakia is no longer significantly falling behind. As for the elementary school teachers, the wages reach 10% of the average wage, while the EU average was 103.4%.
Incidentally, according to this indicator, Finland reached 104.2%. When we take a look at the situation at the lower secondary education level in Slovakia, the country falls behind by 4.6% in comparison to the EU average.
However, this is still far from 18% mentioned in the reform document’s comparison and therefore, there is no need to talk about the necessity to significantly raise the teachers’ salaries.
This is especially relevant in a situation, where it is possible that we have already caught up with the EU average. This year, the teachers’ wages have risen by 10%, but the average wage is estimated to rise only by 2%. It is estimated that the average wage of a teacher will reach approximately 1,350 euros this year.
Incidentally, over the last decade, teachers’ wages have risen by more than 80%, while the average wage in the Slovak economy by approximately 46%. Thus, if the real problem of Slovak education system was the low salaries of teachers, then in recent years this problem has lost much of its zeal.
However, it remains to be a real issue for teachers in Bratislava region. Education is characterized by statutory salaries which are the same in all regions. This, naturally, creates problems.
In the Prešov region (eastern Slovakia), the teacher salary reaches almost 160% of the average wage in this region, while in Bratislava, it is little below 100%.
Thus, the result is that on Profesia.sk webpage (the largest Slovak job portal) there is a demand for 57 teachers in Bratislava region, while in Prešov region (the most populated region in Slovakia) you only find 4 such job offers.
So what is the solution to this peculiar issue? Education system can get inspiration from the police force for example, and introduce allowance for accommodation in expensive regions. Such a solution would not cost hundreds of millions of euros like blanket pay rise and, at the same time, it would be a targeted and effective solution to the currently most pressing issue concerning wages in the Slovak education system.
Once this problem is solved, we could proceed to the following one: motivational remuneration of the skilled teachers and not the teachers who last the longest in the teaching staff and are willing to complete various formalities in order to obtain the necessary attestations.
Translated by Diana Kralova and Ina Secikova