Research: ‘sizeable’ pay rise for teachers to regain standing

September 15, 2020

Sydney University research has shown the need for a “sizeable increase” in teachers’ wages to be competitive in the present Australian labour market and to attract and retain quality teachers in the face of a looming shortage.

Over a two week period (31 August–10 September) the “Valuing the teaching profession — an independent inquiry” has heard from experts and researchers who have detailed the increased administrative workload and expectations placed on teachers by the NSW Government’s devolution policies, such as Local Schools, Local Decisions, that have detracted them from their core focus of teaching and learning.

As part of its deliberations, the panel examined research by the University of Sydney Business School on the dollar value of teachers’ work, which concluded that their remuneration lagged significantly behind that of other professionals.

The university’s report to the inquiry proposed a pay increase in the region of 10-15 per cent “to restore the historical relativity between teachers and the average paid to all other professions”.

Lead researcher Professor John Buchanan told the panel on 10 September that teachers’ pay has been declining relative to other comparable occupations in Australia for more than three decades.

At the peak of their careers, teachers earn less than electricians, physiotherapists, public relations consultants and chiropractors and are paid half of what lawyers and finance managers earn.

“If anything, all of our data understates how far teachers have fallen behind,” Mr Buchanan told the inquiry panel. “Because those people in the top professions would laugh if they saw [our calculations of their salary figures] because they are out by about 30 or 40 per cent, at least.

“The claims I make [for pay increases] may seem extravagant but the data on which they’re based is, if anything, under-estimating how far teachers have fallen behind.”

The research also found that while Australian teachers may have high salaries when they start in relation to other OECD countries, their pay quickly levels out compared with other professional occupations, with more experienced teachers also earning much less than counterparts in similar professions.

Since 2012, when the newly elected NSW Coalition government put a 2.5 per cent cap on public sector wage increases, every state and territory except NSW and Tasmania has significantly increased pay for its top teachers.

The research also pointed to a “current and looming” teacher shortage.

Increasing workers’ pay is generally regarded as an “essential ingredient” in the development of any serious package to attract and retain workers.

“It’s a really clear signal to the labour market for those who want to make a career choice to be a teacher,” Mr Buchanan told the inquiry. “There is a fundamental problem with wages policy in Australia. Change has got to start somewhere and I would actually say start with teaching. If not teachers, who?”

The report stated: “In practice, pay alone is never the solution to such problems but equally it is difficult to overcome such problems without significant adjustments in remuneration.

“Such movements send a signal. In this case they would make it clear there was not just talk but action about repositioning teaching as a valued occupation in society.

“Such a price signal could profoundly change Australians’ career decisions at the beginning of their working lives.”

Scott Coomber is the sub-editor/journalist


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© New South Wales Teachers Federation. All Rights Reserved.

Authorised by Maxine Sharkey, General Secretary, NSW Teachers Federation, 23-33 Mary St. Surry Hills NSW 2010

Privacy Policy