Teachers’ salaries increased in OECD countries but fell in Portugal 2005-2020

  • Lusa
  • 16 September 2021

The OECD's report also says that Portuguese teachers work fewer hours than the average, especially in pre-school, with 100 hours less per year.

The salaries of teachers with 15 years’ experience in OECD countries increased slightly between 2005 and 2020, but in Portugal, they decreased by 6%, an international study reveals.

This is one of the findings of the report “Education at a Glance 2021”, published annually by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which presents international sources of information on the state of education in the world, taking into account the reality of the 37 OECD countries.

After the 2008 financial crisis, teachers’ salaries in the OECD fell but, on average, between 2005 and 2020, the salaries of teachers with 15 years’ service increased by 2% in primary education and 3% in secondary education. In Portugal, salaries “decreased by 6%”, says the document released on Thursday.

But the report also says that Portuguese teachers work fewer hours than the OECD average, especially in pre-school, with 100 hours less per year.

The average number of annual teaching hours required of a teacher in state educational institutions in OECD countries tends to decrease as the level of education increases, ranging from 989 hours in pre-school to 685 hours in secondary education.

In Portugal, teachers teach 885 hours a year in pre-primary and 649 hours in secondary. Unions have warned that there are thousands of teachers who remain for many years on temporary contracts, and therefore have no right to career progression, salary increases or reduction of teaching load.

The report also points to the phenomenon of an ageing teaching profession, a problem that affects most OECD countries and which could put “many governments under pressure to recruit and train new teachers”.

In primary and secondary education, around 35% of teachers are at least 50 years old on average in OECD countries and will reach retirement age in the next decade. In 2019, 44% of 1st – 6th-year teachers in Portugal were at least 50 years old. In the 7th – 9th years the proportion was 50% and 44% in secondary education.

When it comes to spending on education, the report points out that the salaries of school staff, and in particular teachers and school headmasters, represent the biggest expense. In most countries, salaries increase with the level of education and also with experience.

The remuneration of teachers and other staff employed in educational institutions represents the largest share of current expenditure from primary to higher education.

In 2018, Portugal allocated 81% of its current expenditure to staff remuneration, compared to 74% on average in OECD countries.

Public spending on institutions from basic to higher education per full-time student in Portugal was around €7,000 in 2018, below the OECD average (around €8,463).

According to figures in the report, Portugal spent more than €8,000 per student in primary and secondary education, falling €374 below the OECD average. At a higher level, Portugal invested almost €10,000 per pupil, €4,470 less than the OECD average.

Between 2012 and 2018, spending per student increased in OECD countries. In Portugal, spending on educational institutions decreased at an average annual rate of 1.1%, but the number of students also decreased by an average of 1.7% per year over that same period. “This resulted in an average annual growth rate of 0.6% in expenditure per student over this period,” the study concludes.

The proportion of national wealth dedicated to educational institutions is higher in Portugal than on average in OECD countries. In 2018, Portugal spent 5% of its GDP on educational institutions, 0.1 percentage points more than the OECD average.