Irish teachers are paid just over a third of their Swiss counterpart's pay packet when they first go into a classroom, but they earn over seven times the salary of Albanian teachers.
A new European Commission study on 38 education systems found gross statutory starting salaries range from around €5,000 to more than €80,000 per year, depending on the country.
In Switzerland, secondary school teachers have an eye-watering gross starting salary of just over €94,000 with Liechtenstein following with over €93,000 for newly qualified secondary school teachers.
This is around three times more than Irish teachers with a starting pay packet of just under €37,000 but at the other end of the scale, graduate primary school teachers earn just less than €5,000 a year when they first enter the classroom in Albania.
While Irish teachers don’t earn the huge pay cheques paid to teachers in Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries, their starting salary is towards the top third of the table of countries, and is considerably higher than their teachers in countries like France, Italy, and Portugal.
The highest-paid teachers in Ireland are the principals of schools that have more than 60 teachers, earning a maximum salary of €115,182.
“In Ireland, starting school heads’ statutory salary in the largest secondary schools is significantly higher than the salary of teachers with 15 years’ experience as well as the salary of starting heads in small secondary schools”, noted the report.
“When looking at the extent of the difference between minimum and maximum statutory salaries for school heads, the largest differences appear in Ireland, at primary level.”
The heads of primary schools in Ireland with less than 80 pupils are paid a maximum salary of €81,041 while those over the largest school, schools with 36 mainstream teachers, can earn a maximum gross salary of €101,628. The average gross salary for older Irish teachers aged between 55-64 years was just under €74,000.
The report found statutory starting salaries for teachers are below €20,000 per year in eight EU member states including Czechia, Estonia, Greece, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Slovakia.
While in France, Italy, Malta, and Portugal, the annual starting salaries are in the range of €22,000- €29,000.
Teachers’ starting salaries are even higher, between €30,000 and €40,000, in Belgium, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Norway (between €38,000 and €49,000).
"The highest salaries of above €50,000 are in Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.”
In Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania, the statutory salary of beginning teachers is below €9,000 per year with “similarly low salary levels” found in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey.
The new report by Eurydice, European Education and Culture Executive Agency - Education and Youth Policy Analysis, found that the average gross salary for Irish male primary school teachers between the age of 25 and 64 was €57,603, just over €1,600 less than their female counterparts, who had an average salary of €59,217.
The report also revealed that primary and secondary school teachers in Ireland who started working prior to January 2011, got an annual allowance for teaching in an island school of €1,842, while the allowance for teaching in a Gaeltacht area is €3,063, and the allowance for teaching through Irish in an Irish-medium school outside of the Gaeltacht is €1,583.
These allowances are not included in the salaries of teachers who commenced teaching from or on 1 January, 2011.
They found the average number of years necessary to reach the top of the salary range goes from 12 years in Denmark to 42 years in Hungary.
In Ireland, the Netherlands, and Poland, teachers’ statutory starting salaries can increase by more than 60% in the first 15 years in service, and even more in the following years.
The report found that in general in Europe, the higher the educational level in which teachers practice, the higher their average actual salary “In Ireland, Greece, France, Italy, and the Netherlands, secondary teachers earn on average more than pre-primary and primary teachers”, noted the study.
In Switzerland, the report found that teachers can earn six-figure sums for the top jobs with secondary school teachers capable of earning €144,886.
The report, Teachers' and School Heads' Salaries and Allowances in Europe in 2019 and 2020, concluded that remuneration is a key element in making teaching a more attractive profession across the European Union.
“Along with other factors such as working conditions, career prospects, professional development opportunities, and recognition, remuneration plays an important role in drawing people into the profession and in ensuring that serving teachers feel valued and sufficiently motivated to provide high-quality teaching”, said the study.
“This issue becomes increasingly important as education authorities in many European countries need to address teacher shortages and aging of teachers. Policies that affect the earnings and career prospects of those employed in the education sector should therefore be an integral part of comprehensive strategies to improve the attractiveness of the teaching profession.”