Teacher starting salaries in Malta below European average, study shows

Amid the controversy over teacher shortages, a European Commission study shows that a Maltese teacher earns more than her Portuguese counterpart and slightly less than an Italian educator

The starting salary of a teacher in Malta is €22,603 per year, without allowances
The starting salary of a teacher in Malta is €22,603 per year, without allowances

A primary school teacher in Malta has a starting salary that falls just below the average of 42 European countries analysed in a European Commission study.

The starting salary of a teacher in Malta is €22,603 per year, without allowances, while the European average for primary school teachers stands at €25,668.

A Maltese teacher earns more than her counterpart in Portugal, and slightly less than an Italian educator. The starting salary in Portugal is €22,290 and that in Italy is €23,729.

When allowances are added on to the basic starting salary, Maltese teachers earn as much as their Italian counterparts.

The study by Eurydice, a network of 42 educational systems participating in the Erasmus+ programme, took into account the salaries of full-time teachers in public schools and covers the period 2017/2018. The Erasmus+ programme includes non-EU countries as well.

The exercise published this month was based on starting salaries, bereft of allowances and other payments. It shows that Malta falls within the mid-range.

Teachers in Malta earn more than those in Slovenia, Greece, Croatia and other eastern European countries but there is a chasm when compared to richer countries in northern Europe.

The starting salary for a teacher in Luxembourg is a whopping €72,437, followed by Denmark and Germany at €52,517 and €48,698, respectively.

In France, the starting salary is €26,140, while in England (as distinct from the UK), the starting salary for a teacher stands at €25,903.

These figures do not take into account the level of taxation and the cost of living in the respective countries, both of which impact the take-home pay and spending power teachers have.

Teacher salaries in Malta received a boost last year after a sectoral agreement introduced new allowances and upped the pay packet. Increases will continue yearly until 2022, contributing to the improvement of Malta’s standing in the European ranking.


Salaries ahead of per capita GDP

The report also includes a comparison of actual salaries teachers receive, including allowances, with the respective countries’ GDP per capita for the years 2016/2017.

Teachers in Malta in that period (which is before the sectoral and public service agreements of 2017) earned slightly more than the GDP per capita.

In Portugal, where teachers earn less than their Maltese counterparts, actual salaries were more than 10% higher than per capita GDP.

The report also took into consideration salary progression, noting that although starting salaries are important in attracting new teachers, they are not the only factor to consider.

“If salaries rise quickly, then a low starting salary may not necessarily be a disincentive to becoming a teacher,” the report states.

Malta was classified in the modest category for early increases in teacher pay, alongside Denmark, Lithuania and Finland, among others.

In these countries, the total salary increase is less than 40% and is awarded within the first 20 years in service.

In Malta, the starting salary increases by 15% after 10 years, going up to 20% after 15 years. The equivalent increases in Italy are 11% after 10 years and 22% after 15 years.

The report quotes research undertaken in 2016 that showed Malta having the lowest average age among teachers when compared to the rest of EU member states.

Minister reacts

Education Minister Evarist Bartolo said a lot was done to improve the conditions for teachers but acknowledged that the work of educators has become more difficult.

“There are factors that did not exist 20 years ago. There are challenges related to security and child behaviour, on which we will be announcing new measures this week. But there are also challenges related to foreign students who need individual help, especially on language skills,” Bartolo said.

He noted that the education system was not isolated from the rest of the country, which posed further challenges to try and attract people to the profession.

“It is encouraging to note that Maltese teachers have the lowest average age in the EU but we also have to keep in mind that an 18-year-old today has a multitude of work opportunities that offer wages that no school could ever match. But this is a challenge for schools as much as it is for other sectors that have to compete with better wages offered by companies in the financial services sector and gaming,” he added.

Asked about the controversy on teacher shortages, the minister said the teacher-to-student ratio was “very good” but there still existed gaps in some subjects as a result of the more personalised educational experience.

“The system that introduced different tracks in schools meant greater personalisation in some subjects based on the students’ level of attainment. This has resulted in smaller classes, and obviously, a higher demand for teachers,” Bartolo said.

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