TeacherIncome-header


QWA-category-Inequality

Much of the recent discussion about inequality has focused on the very rich (the 0.01%) or the very poor (the bottom billion or so). But what about those people who are somewhere in the middle? Through the TED-Ed network, we asked 17 public school teachers working in locations from Kildare to Kathmandu, Johannesburg to Oslo, to tell us what they earned last month, and to give us a sense of how they spent their salaries. We chose to focus on public school teachers, because the way these educators are treated says something about national priorities, the economic climate, and a country’s vision for the future. The teachers’ responses show that it really doesn’t matter where you are — certain worries and goals are universal. Note, answers were lightly edited for space and meaning.

 

Tell us about yourself: I’m 25; I’m a year 1 classroom teacher; this is my second year of teaching full time.

How much money did you earn last month? My net income was 7,188 AUD for 4 weeks (about $6,640 USD).

Does your income support anyone else, like a child, partner or parent? No.

What is your living arrangement, and how much did you spend on housing last month? My rent is only 94 AUD a month (approx. 87 USD) and is deducted from my pay. I live in a very rundown 1980s duplex I share with three other teachers. The house is furnished but not looked after, and I was provided a single bed. The air conditioning doesn’t work; the fridge and freezer are faulty.

How much did you spend on healthcare or medicine last month? I live in a remote indigenous community. and if I need to see a doctor it is free and all medication is free. I spend roughly 40 AUD (about $37 USD) a month on healthcare and medicine.

What do you wish you could afford? I really want to buy a motorbike and a dog.

“Working as a classroom teacher in a very remote setting has its ups and downs. At the moment, my income is sufficient, but I’m worried because I don’t think it would be enough to buy a house in inner-city Brisbane.”

 

Tell us about yourself: I’m 32 years old; I’m a middle school Special Education teacher working for the Toronto District School Board. I’ve been teaching kids with autism for seven years.

How much money did you earn last month? My take home pay is around 3,400 CAD (about $3,120 USD).

Does your income support anyone else, like a child, partner or parent? No.

What is your living arrangement, and how much did you spend on housing last month? 1,400 CAD (about $1,285 USD) for a two-bedroom house in a nice neighborhood. We rent it from a family at a discount.

How much did you spend on health care or medicine last month? $0. I live in Canada; health care is free.

Were you able to save any money last month? We try to save a bit for small yearly trips and keep some funds in case our car needs repairs.

What do you wish you could afford? I try not to think about things I want, I couldn’t afford most of them. But I’m thrifty and live comfortably.

Is your income sufficient to support the lifestyle you want? My income will be sufficient once my student debt is paid off and I reach the top pay bracket after 10 years of teaching.

“I am happy with my income and think I earn a fair wage. I am unhappy with the public’s perception in Canada that teachers are overpaid. I’ve never met anyone that teaches for money. It’s never about the paycheck; it’s about loving the work we do. However, I do feel that our politicians, media, and therefore the general public feel that we are overpaid and lazy because we get more vacation time than many other professionals.”

 

Tell us about yourself: I’m 47 years old; I am a grade 6 homeroom teacher who teaches English, Math and Literacy in a French immersion school. I’ve been here since 2009.

How much money did you earn last month? My take-home pay is around 3,000 CAD (about $2,750 USD).

Does your income support anyone else, like a child, partner or parent? Yes. I have a spouse and a child in university.

What do you wish you could afford? Nothing. Maybe some tech to share with my students.

Do you think you earn a fair income? I am fairly well compensated.

Is your income sufficient to support the lifestyle you want? Enough. If I didn’t live in the Toronto area, my expenses would be cut by 40%.

“I took a pay cut to become a teacher. It is a calling, not a job. Teaching is a privilege that is not for the infirm of purpose or seekers of large pay-stub totals. If I didn’t wake up before my alarm so I can get to school early, I’d be worried. The fact is that I do wake each morning excited for what the day holds for my classroom — the challenges as much as the triumphs — which for some can be a simple as reading a first sentence.”

 

Tell us about yourself: I’m 27 years old; I teach year 5 students. I’m a newly qualified teacher, having spent 5 years studying for my BEd degree.

How much money did you earn last month? My take-home pay is around 2,100 GBP (about $3,540 USD).

Does your income support anyone else? No.

What is your living arrangement, and how much did you spend on housing last month? 670 GBP (about $1,130 USD) per month on a bedroom in a two bedroom apartment shared with a friend.

How much did you spend on health care or medicine last month? Zero.

What do you wish you could afford? I’m currently saving for a holiday abroad to visit family in Australia.

Is your income sufficient to support the lifestyle you want? Barely. I’m trying to clear debts and cover the massive deposit I had to place on my flat.

“Sometimes I wonder if the stress I put myself through is worth it, but then one of the kids or parents will tell me a story about how I’ve made a difference and it all seems worthwhile.”

 

Tell us about yourself: I am a 54-year-old English foreign language teacher, currently employed at a night high school in central Athens. I’ve been a teacher for 33 years.

How much money did you earn last month? 1,000 EUR net (about $1,360 USD).

What is your living arrangement, and how much did you spend on housing last month? I live in a two-bedroom apartment in a block of flats in central Athens which I own. I spend around 200 EUR (about $270 USD) a month on utility bills and heating for the apartment.

How much did you spend on health care or medicine last month? Around 80 EUR (about $109 USD) a month is deducted from my salary for social health care. I have to pay 70% of the cost of medication prescribed by a doctor and spend around 20 EUR (about $27 USD) for a visit to a public healthcare centre in order to get the prescription.

Were you able to save any money last month? I saved 50 EUR (about $68 USD).

What do you wish you could afford? I used to have enough to take a trip abroad once a year which is something I really miss. I don’t buy clothing except when it becomes really urgent. That’s another “luxury” I really miss.

Do you think you earn a fair income? No, I feel frustrated by the fiscal policies applied in my country.

Is your income sufficient to support the lifestyle you want? If I had to support my 28 year old daughter I think we’d be on the verge of poverty.

“I was meant to be a teacher and I wouldn’t change that for the world. But I feel frustrated by the fiscal policies in Greece. I used to teach extra lessons in the past, but the recession has had its way with those as well. My only reward is a ‘Thank you, Miss’ at the end of the night shift at school.”

 

Tell us about yourself: I’m 29 years old; I’m a secondary school teacher of math and music. I’ve been a qualified teacher for five years.

How much money did you earn last month? 2,300 EUR net (about $3,140 USD).

What is your living arrangement, and how much did you spend on housing last month? 500 EUR a month (about $682 USD) to rent a house I share with my spouse in a reasonably decent area.

How much did you spend on health care or medicine last month? 150 EUR a month (about $205 USD) for private healthcare. 144 EUR a month (about $197 USD) for asthma medication. This is capped by the government; it would be much higher.

Were you able to save any money last month? We are saving 500 EUR (about $682 USD) a month minimum towards a mortgage deposit. Every penny we can save is going towards that.

What do you wish you could afford? A baby.

Do you think you earn a fair income? I earn a fair enough income now. The problem is lack of job security. I’m not permanent and could be let go any year. There are no benefits apart from a pension for teachers in Ireland.

Is your income sufficient to support the lifestyle you want? At the moment I’m fine. Children will be a problem.

“I have days when I wonder if it’s worth it, and I am well aware that I will not be able to maintain this workload for the rest of my working life. I continue to upskill in areas such as programming so that I have a fallback.”

 

Teacher-Japan

Tell us about yourself: I’m a 47-year-old high school English teacher in Kagoshima prefecture; I’ve been doing this for 19 years.

How much money did you earn last month? I earn 350,000 Japanese yen after tax (about $3,340 USD).

Does your income support anyone else? Yes, part of it. Both my husband and I support our daughter.

What is your living arrangement, and how much did you spend on housing last month? 75,000 Japanese yen (about $740 USD) on rent for a three-bedroom apartment in a pretty nice neighborhood.

How much did you spend on health care or medicine last month? About 82,000 yen (about $810 USD).

Were you able to save any money last month? Yes. I want to buy a house and save some for my daughter’s education.

What do you wish you could afford? Nothing.

Is your income sufficient to support the lifestyle you want? Yes.

“I am grateful for my job. I think I earn a fair income. But I am very busy, and I feel like I need much more time: time to talk with students and parents, time to teach, and time at home to take care of my family.”

 

Teacher-Lithuania

Tell us about yourself: I’m 58 years old; I’m an English teacher at the gymnasium. I’ve been teaching English for 36 years.

How much money did you earn last month? About 2200,00 LTL (about $870 USD).

Does your income support anyone else, like a child, partner or parent? Yes, I have a son, who’s a student.

What is your living arrangement, and how much did you spend on housing last month? I have a five-room private house. I spend about 300 LTL on taxes (about $118 USD).

How much did you spend on health care or medicine last month? About 100 LTL (about $40 USD).

What do you wish you could afford? Nothing.

Is your income sufficient to support the lifestyle you want? Yes. My budget is always positive.

“I don’t think my income is entirely fair, and it would be nice to earn more, but bearing in mind that lots of people earn less, I’m quite satisfied. I like my job and can’t imagine myself in another position.”

 

Teacher-Macedonia

Tell us about yourself: I’m 26 years old; I’m a 7th grade English teacher; I’ve been doing this for less than a year.

How much money did you earn last month? I earned 6,000 MKD net (about $133 USD).

What is your living arrangement, and how much did you spend on housing last month? I live with my parents.

How much did you spend on health care or medicine last month? Less than 500 MKD (about $11 USD).

What do you wish you could afford? I wish I could afford to buy my own apartment.

Is your income sufficient to support the lifestyle you want? It is not sufficient, because I would love to live on my own, not with my family.

“I’m content with my income, but that’s because I don’t have a family to support or bills to pay. As a teacher, I do more administrative work than teaching. Sometimes the children are unsatisfied with our performance, but there’s only so much I can do with all the administrative work I have.”

 

Teacher-Nepal

Tell us about yourself: I’m 28 years old; I’m a computer teacher at a community school. I teach grades 3 through 8.

How much money did you earn last month? I earned 11,080 NPR net (about $115 USD).

What is your living arrangement, and how much did you spend on housing last month? Living with our parents is how it works here. So I can say I don’t have to pay.

How much did you spend on health care or medicine last month? 3,000 NPR (about $32 USD) per month.

What do you wish you could afford? I want a reading device like an ebook reader, or Kindle, but I can’t afford that.

Do you think you earn a fair income? No, I am a privately hired teacher at my school. The government scale is higher. I deserve more.

Is your income sufficient to support the lifestyle you want? I can’t sustain my life on it. So I may have to look elsewhere into some tech job.

“I am happy but financially strapped. I don’t eat at restaurants; I can’t afford it. I am not a demanding guy, so my income seems sufficient for now, but I can’t sustain my life on it.”

 

Teacher-Norway

 

Tell us about yourself: I’m 45 years old; I’ve been a middle school math and science teacher for the last 7 years.

How much money did you earn last month? I earned 26,000 NOK net (about $4,370 USD).

What is your living arrangement, and how much did you spend on housing last month? I live in an apartment in central Oslo. The mortgage is 7,000 NOK (about $1,175 USD).

How much did you spend on health care or medicine last month? That’s all taken care of by the government.

Were you able to save any money last month? I save about 1000 NOK (about $168 USD) a month. I don’t have a specific goal in mind.

Is your income sufficient to support the lifestyle you want? Yes, I’m single with no kids. I have a safety net and control of my financial life.

“I have one major frustration with working as a teacher: Education policy is seemingly run as a wishful thinking project, where politicians draw a path for pupils they don’t understand on a map they haven’t seen. I wish we teachers would have more aggressively participate in forming education policy.”

 

Teacher-Romania

Tell us about yourself: I’m 55 years old; I’m an English teacher for all levels, mentor, national evaluator, teacher trainer, general inspector for English in the Romanian Ministry of Education.

How much money did you earn last month? 361 EUR (about $492 USD).

Does your income support anyone else, like a child, partner or parent? Yes, I have one daughter and one granddaughter to support. I’m a single parent.

What is your living arrangement, and how much did you spend on housing last month? 250 EUR (about $340 USD) rent for a small apartment.

How much did you spend on healthcare or medicine last month? I can’t afford any.

Were you able to save any money last month? No.

What do you wish you could afford? Almost every decency of life.

Do you think you earn a fair income? No.

Is your income sufficient to support the lifestyle you want? No.

“Teaching is like volunteer work that nobody recognizes as such. I’m deeply dissatisfied, and I think the great victims of our system of education are the pupils.”

 

Teacher-SouthAfrica

Tell us about yourself: I am a 31-year-old secondary math teacher. I teach grades 9, 10 and 11. I am in my third year of teaching.

How much money did you earn last month? 11,756 ZAR net (about $1,130 USD).

What is your living arrangement, and how much did you spend on housing last month? I have a mortgage of 6,000 ZAR (about $580 USD) per month. The levies are 1,300 ZAR (about $125 USD) per month.

How much did you spend on health care or medicine last month? 1,121 ZAR (about $108 USD) per month, deducted from my salary.

What do you wish you could afford? I would like a new laptop, but my current one still serves its purpose. There are camera lenses and tripods I would like to buy, but cannot justify them.

Is your income sufficient to support the lifestyle you want? Yes, as a single person with a roommate who helps with household expenses and rent. I would be very worried to have to support myself entirely. Perhaps if my mortgage rate came down.

“I feel like I am providing a valuable service — and I do love my job at times. But teaching also has unfortunate downsides such as the money and administrative load, which can significantly detract from my core job as a teacher. While my income could be worse, I would argue it still is not fair for the qualifications I hold and my job performance. Often it’s hard work with little thanks.”

 

Teacher-Sweden

Tell us about yourself: I am 33 years old; I teach grades 4 to 6 at my school in math, science and technology.

How much money did you earn last month? I earned 20,000 SEK net (about $3,030 USD).

Does your income support anyone else, like a child, partner or parent? Yes, I have a partner who’s been unemployed for a long time.

What is your living arrangement, and how much did you spend on housing last month? I paid half the rent, 2500 SEK (about $380 USD) for a three-room apartment in one of the least attractive parts of town.

How much did you spend on health care or medicine last month? 300 SEK (about $45 USD) maybe. We have been suffering from colds lately.

Do you think you earn a fair income? I spent more than four years at university to become a teacher. I think we should earn 10,000 SEK (about $1,515 USD) more every month. The unions promised that they would work for that but they let us down in the last negotiations.

Is your income sufficient to support the lifestyle you want?  I’d like to have kids, but in this economy I don’t see how I’d make ends meet and give my kids a decent childhood.

“I really loved teaching when I started to work, but in Sweden kids are less and less well raised. Parents no longer do their job in a way they should, which makes me, in many cases, the only one setting rules for their kids. That’s exhausting. I would love to spend more time teaching and less time raising them.”

 

Teacher-Syria

Tell us about yourself: I am a 25-year-old 7th grade math teacher. I have been doing this for 2 years.

How much money did you earn last month? About $114 USD.

How much did you spend on health care or medicine last month? About $5 USD; the government supports us.

Were you able to save any money last month? Every month I try to save $17 USD. I try to save for bad days.

Do you think you earn a fair income? I am not happy. We deserve much more. In private schools teachers earn more than us.

“In general, I love my job. It is my way to improve my country. But the war makes that so hard. Teaching is a hard job — but it is the sort of job where you can regenerate every day.”

 

Teacher-Georgia-UnitedStates

Tell us about yourself: I’m 29 years old; I’ve taught elementary music for five years.

How much money did you earn last month? $2,100 USD net.

Does your income support anyone else, like a child, partner or parent? Yes, I support my partner, who’s in graduate school.

What is your living arrangement, and how much did you spend on housing last month? I pay $650 USD a month for an apartment in the ghetto. But it’s big and allows pets.

How much did you spend on health care or medicine last month? $90 USD out of my own pocket.

What do you wish you could afford? To live in a house where I feel safe being home alone.

Do you think you earn a fair income? I love my job. I really, truly do, and did not enter it for the pay. But if I quit tomorrow, and went to work for Aflac, I would make more. If I took home about $500 USD more, I think it would be a fair income.

Is your income sufficient to support the lifestyle you want?  It’s hard. We have come to the decision not to have children, in part because neither of us will make enough money to support one. We have no emergency fund.

“Though I love my job, the stress that comes with it along with the stress of money problems sometimes makes me consider leaving, even though I don’t think I would feel as fulfilled as I do right now. We scrape by, and make the best of what we have, and we are happy for now.”

 

Teacher-MN-UnitedStates

Tell us about yourself: I’m a 29-year-old high school special education teacher. I’ve been doing this for five years.

How much money did you earn last month? $2,800 USD after taxes.

Does your income support anyone else? Yes, I have a 1-year-old daughter. Next year my wife, who is also a teacher, will be taking a few years off to stay at home with her, so we will be living off my income entirely.

What is your living arrangement, and how much did you spend on housing last month? $1,100 USD mortgage on a three-bedroom house in a decent neighborhood.

How much did you spend on health care or medicine last month? None.

What do you wish you could afford? I want to put up a fence in my backyard because we have annoying neighbors with trash-filled lawns, but this is too expensive. I’d also like a new bike.

Do you think you earn a fair income? I am not happy; we deserve much more. In private schools, teachers earn more than us.

Is your income sufficient to support the lifestyle you want?  No. It’s okay and we get by, but it’s not enough. My district has been without a contract for nearly a year because they won’t approve a 2% cost of living increase. It seems like no one cares. There is a reason I’m getting into administration. The principal in my school makes $130,000 USD per year.

“I’m worried my income won’t be enough as my daughter gets older. I really like being a teacher — I just wish I was recognized for it every now and then, whether in pay or just a pat on the back. But it beats being a lawyer.”

Simon Marcus is a researcher at TED.