Having earned an honours degree and a postgraduate diploma, Catherine spent two years substitute teaching and covering temporary contracts. Despite her extra qualifications, when she did find permanent employment in 2014, she started at the bottom of the pay scale and, as a result, has lost out on over €23,000 in earnings.
“I subbed for the first six months of my teaching career waiting for the call at half seven every morning,” she says. “I finally secured a maternity leave contract in a special school in my home town and worked there until June 2013.
“For the following year, I got another maternity leave and a temporary contract, which got me through the whole year in two different schools. Then I finally got a permanent job in my local community national school, in 2014. Hanging around every morning waiting for the call [to substitute], to put it mildly, was a dark time.
“You’re literally waking up at half seven in the morning hoping the phone will ring and that’s the honest truth. I really pity anybody who has to do that . You cannot plan for anything when you’re in that circumstance. You can’t even plan for the next week. You’re in a limbo, no pay for holidays, it’s uncertainty. I lived at home during this period. There was no other way around it.
“I genuinely gave emigrating some thought but honestly, scraping together the €1,000 for flights to go to the UAE or Australia, I just couldn’t. It’s very appealing, it still is appealing the idea of being able to go to a foreign country and earn almost €40,000 tax free, which some of my friends are doing, by choice, others by necessity.
“I had to start at Point 1 of the 2012 pay scale, which is significantly lower than what I would have started on had I qualified two years earlier, the difference in that is almost €3,000 of the annual basic salary.
“I have not received an honours degree allowance for the past four years of my teaching career, which would have been €4,918 per annum on top of basic salary. So that represents a total loss of earnings of €23,051.50.
“When you look at that number of €23,051.50 and you go to buy a new car, and I don’t mean brand new, a new to me car, out of necessity not luxury, it’s then you really think what you could put that €23,051.50 towards.
“At this moment in time, I don’t have any children or dependents or mortgage but I do have bills. I have to live my life and, at the moment, paying the bills, paying my rent, travelling to and from work, it all adds up and when you take that away from your take-home pay there’s not a lot else left to put towards saving for a mortgage, or the 20% deposit that we’re all wondering how on earth are we ever going to reach.
“That seems like a dream to me, that someday I might be able to achieve that 20%, it’s kind of a magic number. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have my own little home.
“Yes I want a home, I want somewhere to settle down in, but again it’s not something I have the luxury of planning for at this moment in time because it’s just seems that it’s that little bit too far out of reach. I can’t plan for the future.”