[PUBLICATION] Teachers’ Pay with Sober Head

Winslow Homer: The Country School // Public domain

Teachers’ salaries are a topic every year. This time, however, it is different. In addition to internal arguments about the state of education, external developments – inflation and the public deficit – also play an important role. We describe how to approach teachers’ pay rises in this context in the new INESS publication, Teachers’ Pay with a Sober Head.

The Ministry of Education can take this adverse development of external factors as an opportunity to address many long-standing internal issues. In other words, when for objective reasons there is no funding for expensive, across-the-board salary increases, it is high time to do your homework and take a number of measures towards teachers that are less costly but have been long delayed.


There is still more than enough low-hanging fruit in education that can realistically help teachers in the worst circumstances.

Today’s teachers’ pay settings are too administrative and focused on across-the-board tables. This means that teachers’ pay in no way reflects the different supply and demand conditions for their work in different regions of the country and for different subjects. Let alone the quality of teachers.

As a result, a number of imbalances arise in the education system. For example, the average teacher’s salary in the Bratislava region is EUR 1 484.6, while in the Prešov region it is EUR 1 510.5. Thus, teachers in Bratislava earn 1.7% less than those in Prešov.

However, the average wage in the economy is 54.3% higher in the Bratislava region than in the Prešov region. As a consequence, there is a shortage of teachers in Bratislava. The solution is to introduce a regional supplement for teachers to take account of these different salary levels. The education sector can take inspiration from, for example, the police force, which offers a housing allowance for police officers in Bratislava.

Another problem is the wages of beginning teachers, which are relatively low and again are not differentiated in any way by region. Beginning teachers start with a salary of EUR 970, regardless of whether they teach in Bratislava or Sabinov. The starting salary for a salesperson in Bratislava is EUR 1 100 and in Sabinov EUR 890.

Thus, a beginning teacher in Bratislava receives EUR 100 less than his friend behind the counter, while in Sabinov EUR 110 more. The low wages of beginning teachers are also confirmed by empirical work, which points out that young teachers under 35 are the most active in looking for a new job.

The setting of pay according to the added value of teachers’ work would also deserve changes. The current set-up of the tables only rewards the fulfilment of formalities in the form of attestation or the number of years spent behind the department. This system also takes no account of the subjects that teachers teach.

Thus, the same salary must be offered by the headmaster to a history teacher and a computer scientist. However, labor market data show that there are plenty of the former and that schools cannot get hold of the latter.

The solution is to reduce the weight that rigid tables play in teacher pay and to bring into the system more opportunities for principals to differentiate pay according to the quality and value of teachers to the school. This alone, of course, is not enough.

Alongside this, we need to open up the education market and give parents and pupils as much choice as possible in choosing their school, which will create pressure for quality among providers.

These are all changes and measures that can be taken or started without the Ministry of Education needing to find hundreds of millions of euros in the budget for expensive across-the-board increases in teachers’ salaries.

At the same time, these are measures that will help many of the teachers who objectively need it the most, increasing the chances of an increase in the quality of education.

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