NSW teacher pay gone from bad to worse

Professor John Buchanan
Professor John Buchanan
Teachers remain one of the lowest-paid professions and are overdue for a significant increase in salaries, according to a new report by the University of Sydney Business School.

Lead author Professor John Buchanan said the situation for NSW teachers is "particularly acute", and increasing salaries and cutting workloads is essential to address teacher shortages and create a more sustainable and attractive teaching profession.

On top of a continuing decline in teachers’ salaries compared to the average of all professions, the report found real earnings fell by about 5.7 percent between 2020 and 2022 due to salary increases that were far below inflation increases.

"Real earnings today are essentially as they were 10 years ago. NSW teachers’ pay has gone from bad to worse, with the situation set to deteriorate further," Professor Buchanan said.

The release of the report comes as a NSW parliamentary inquiry into teacher shortages begins hearings today.

The research, produced in collaboration with the  Brain and Mind Centre ’s Mental Wealth Initiative, found in recent years there had been a continuation of the 30-year decline in teachers’ salaries compared to the average of all professionals, with male teachers earning only 83.3 percent of the average professional salary in 2021 and females 93.5 percent.

The gap had also widened with other occupations that did not require a degree, such as financial brokers and real estate agents.

"The situation for NSW teachers is particularly acute. Not only do they now face the challenge of falling real earnings, this comes on top of a historic decline in relativities that has been underway for decades," Professor Buchanan said.

The report recommends a phased approach, including a salary increase of 10-15 percent to address the gap between teaching and other professions, and a further 5.5-8.5 percent increase to address inflation, totalling between 15.5-25.5 percent within the next seven years.

"I’ve come to that quantum reluctantly," Professor Buchanan told Guardian Australia. 

It’s not a reckless figure that’s been put out there. That is a sign of how broken our wages system is.

The report warns changes in technology and teaching practices, teacher shortages, a rise in insecure work, and the under-resourcing of public schools has put the teaching profession under unprecedented pressure.

"As teaching work has become increasingly demanding more teachers than ever are leaving the profession. Just as significantly, fewer are joining the profession," Professor Buchanan said.­­­

"The challenge is not just to increase teachers’ pay. An effective wages policy must also nurture a more sustainable teaching profession. In a nutshell, fair pay levels - along with decent working arrangements - need to be integral to a reconstruction of teachers’ work."


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