OECD report finds Israel has one of the biggest pay gaps between teachers

Israel has one of the world’s biggest gaps in salaries between teachers, according to a report by the OECD on teachers’ salaries in 2021.

 TENS OF thousands of teachers demonstrate in Tel Aviv, May 30. (photo credit: ANAV SILVERMAN PERETZ)
TENS OF thousands of teachers demonstrate in Tel Aviv, May 30.
(photo credit: ANAV SILVERMAN PERETZ)

A new agreement between the Teachers Union and the Finance Ministry is imminent, Finance Ministry representative Kobi Bar-Nathan said Monday.

The ministry’s report on teachers’ wages, which was filed Monday, presages a “new agreement with the teachers, designed to build the foundation for our children, the future generation,” he said.

Bar-Nathan was directly involved in negotiations with the Teachers Union

Wage disparity

Amid ongoing strikes and reports of vacant positions within the education system, the Finance Ministry published a report detailing wage expenditures in the education system for the 2020-2021 academic year. According to the report’s findings, there has been a sharp rise in the rate of young teachers leaving teaching, likely due to significant disparities in educators’ wages.’

Israel has one of the world’s biggest gaps in teachers’ salaries, according to an OECD report on teachers’ salaries in 2021 that was published on Sunday.

 YAFFA BEN-DAVID, head of the Teachers’ Union, greets teachers participating in a demonstration in Tel Aviv in May demanding better pay and work conditions. (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90) YAFFA BEN-DAVID, head of the Teachers’ Union, greets teachers participating in a demonstration in Tel Aviv in May demanding better pay and work conditions. (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

The report showed that monthly salaries range from NIS 5,880 for teachers in training to NIS 25,346 for school principals, while an average salary for a full-time teacher was NIS 13,971.

The Israeli average salary for teachers was comparable to the average of all OECD countries, with the average salary for principals slightly higher.

Even though the Israeli average was similar to the international average, the average salary for beginner teachers was far lower than the OECD average. A beginning teacher in Israel earns roughly 40% of the salary earned by the highest-paid teachers, lower than the OECD average, which was 60%.

Beyond the below-average salary paid to teaching staff, younger teachers were subjected to significant wage disparity. On average, young teaching staff earn 29% of the salary of veteran teaching staff. The report attributed this to two factors: base salary differences, which are among the highest in the world; and low job rates for beginning teachers.

The large gap was found to be discouraging to new teachers and could explain why many new teachers quit, creating a shortage of teachers. According to the report, about 60% of teachers with two to five years of seniority quit over the past three years.

The report also showed that Israeli students attend school for the most days of all OECD countries: 214 school days a year for elementary school and 205 for secondary school, compared with the world average of 186 and 184, respectively.

The teachers strike back

In recent years, the salary disparities in the education system have narrowed slightly, as the Finance Ministry’s salary department has attempted to even the disparity in collaboration with the Teachers Union. Last month, the union agreed to pause its latest strike in an effort to pursue negotiations with the Finance Ministry.

“We acceded to the request of the education minister and decided to freeze the sanctions,” Teachers Union secretary-general Yaffa Ben David said. “I hope for continued substantive and honest negotiations with the commissioner of wages and expect that the rest of the government and the political system will see the good of the system and understand that if we do not reach an agreement in the coming days, we will have to resume the struggle.”

“If we do not reach an agreement in the coming days, we will have to resume the struggle”

Yaffa Ben David, director-general of Israel's Teachers Union 

Bar-Nathan acknowledged the Finance Ministry’s responsibility for solving the issue.

“The data that emerge from the report... emphasize the need for significant compensation for young teachers, the possibility of personal contracts in popular professions and an agreement that will move the education system forward,” he said.

“A great responsibility rests on our shoulders as those responsible for the public treasury, and we must make sure that the use of public funds will make the education system the best it can be,” Bar-Nathan said. “Our commitment is to promote a good and worthy agreement for students, parents, teachers and administrators.”