French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday promised more pay rises for teachers amid a recruitment crisis that has led to around 4,000 school vacancies ahead of the start of term.
A week before classes open after the summer holidays, Macron told school heads that efforts to raise teacher salaries which began in 2020 would “continue.”
He added that “no teacher will start their career with less than 2,000 euros net” per month, which would represent a rise of about 10 percent compared with now.
Figures from the education ministry showing that 4,000 teacher jobs remain vacant have led to a debate in recent weeks about how to attract more people to the profession.
Education Minister Pap Ndiaye acknowledged in July that salaries were “objectively not at the sort of level that one would expect.”
The government had already promised an unconditional raise for new teachers but will also offer task-based increases for teachers who agree to take on extra responsibilities.
Teachers with 15 years’ experience make around $40,000 a year before tax in France, according to data from the OECD, below the average of their peers in other rich countries and around half the level of their German equivalents.
Shortages have led to controversial recruitment efforts including rapid “job dating” interviews.
A school district in Versailles southwest of Paris organised 30-minute interviews with 2,000 candidates from outside the profession in June.
State teachers are usually required to have a master’s degree in education and pass a tough certification exam, but the education ministry is lowering these demands for temporary “contract teachers”.
Sophie Venetitay, secretary general of the biggest secondary school union, the Snes-FSU, said it was a “return to class with shortages”.
“We’ve seen school authorities and the ministry improvising in every way possible to make sure there is a teacher in front of every class,” she told AFP.
“But even if this objective is reached, you have to ask yourself what the cost will be, if these teachers have not been trained,” she said.
Key sectors across the economy in France and Europe more widely are struggling to find staff after the Covid-19 epidemic.
The official unemployment rate in France stands at 7.4 percent, with 2.3 million people officially out of work, according to statistics agency INSEE.