Why Teachers Deserve a Better Deal

Posted on 27 April 2019

Teacher pay is a hot topic in 2019, with the threat of strikes in primary and secondary education. Teachers have been offered higher pay, but is it enough?

A combination of factors are causing angst within the public education sector and have resulted in teacher shortages in many areas:

  • Teacher pay has increased less than many other industries over the last 10 years.
  • Housing costs have increased much faster than salaries, especially in Auckland.
  • The teaching workforce is ageing; not enough new teachers are entering the profession.
  • Teacher training enrolments declined over 2010-2016 (though are starting to recover).
  • Increased immigration has meant many more children to teach.

Teachers are not alone in complaining of the increasing cost of living outstripping slower pay increases. Employees in many other professions are also experiencing pain. However teachers are on fixed pay scales and by and large don't have the power to increase pay by switching to different schools. Some teachers could leave the public school system or change careers but if done at scale there would be severe teacher shortages within public schools.

Q4/2008 Q4/2018 % increase
Auckland House Prices 440,000 863,000 96.1%
NZ House Prices 330,000 560,000 69.7%
Public Admin Pay 1021.22 1401.46 37.2%
Internet/Media Pay 1052.41 1387.99 31.9%
Healthcare/Social Pay 744.75 1001.47 34.5%
Education/Training Pay 886.91 1057.66 19.3%

Sources:
Median house price data (REINZ)
QES Average Weekly Total Earnings (Employees) - stats.govt.nz

Specifically on the topic of teacher pay we can see in the attached chart of average weekly pay over the last 10 years that teacher salaries have underperformed some other key industries. Workers in the Internet, Media and Telecommunications industry, and in Public Administration and Safety have higher total pay and have also experienced higher salary increases over the last 10 years.

Workers in Health Care and Social Assistance have lower weekly pay on average, but have received higher average pay increases over the last 10 years than employees in the Education and Training sector.

To help resolve these issues teachers have asked for:

  • More teachers, so children get more attention.
  • More resources to support children with additional learning needs.
  • A substantial pay increase to compensate for higher living costs.

Private sector employees may not see industrial action as justified, but there's much more freedom to individually negotiate salaries and change employers in the private sector.

On balance it would seem that Teachers are well justified to push for a better pay deal in 2019.

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