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Education For Members

'Better pay in Germany': Why is Austria's teacher shortage getting worse?

Amanda Previdelli
Amanda Previdelli - [email protected]
'Better pay in Germany': Why is Austria's teacher shortage getting worse?
A classroom with children (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

Austria needs at least 4,000 teachers to join the workforce yearly, but last year there were 8,600 positions advertised. So why does the situation seem to be getting worse?

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Not unlike other European countries, Austria suffers from a labour shortage that tends to get worse as the "baby boomer" generation retires. It affects all sectors of the economy, including health care and education - and teachers throughout Austria have said that the situation is becoming unbearable.

In education, not only the retirement wave affects the workforce, but more people are looking for part-time jobs (around one-third of teachers in Austrian schools work part-time) or changing career paths altogether, with complaints from difficulty in finding childcare options to the demands of the teaching career not being in line with the salaries (especially starting salaries). 

READ ALSO: Energy, corruption, labour shortage: Austria’s plans to face its major challenges

Additionally, Austria's long teacher training programme, which contains a one-year "introduction" phase after the four-year bachelor's degree and then the minimum one-year master's degree. However, as the situation worsens, more and more "lateral entrants" (Quereinsteiger), candidates without complete formal training, are being hired. 

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According to an APA roundup of education directorates and state governments, other factors, including demographics and geographic conditions in some provinces, make things more complicated. 

The federal government still needs to announce consolidated data on the issue, but in 2022, 8,600 positions were advertised before the September school year. Generally, about 4,000 teacher positions become vacant yearly due to retirement, relocation, paternal leave, or other reasons.

Here's what The Local's readers think of the Italian school system. Photo Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP

Better pay elsewhere

Teachers' unions in Austria fear the staff shortage crisis will worsen as German state Bavaria has started a campaign to attract workers from other states and German-speaking countries with bonuses and better salaries. 

In Vorarlberg, many teachers already choose to commute to Switzerland, where salaries are much higher, said the category representative Paul Kimberger to the website Oberösterreichische Nachrichten on Tuesday.

"Austria is no longer competitive," he added.

The Bavarian state premier (a role similar to Austrian governors) Markus Söder (CSU) has announced that the state will have 6,000 teaching positions by 2028, on top of a shortage of 4,000 people in compulsory schools. 

READ ALSO: Four things foreigners in Austria need to know about the education system

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At €4,774 gross per month, the starting salary in the southern German state is higher than in Austria (€3,116). In addition, the state would offer a €3,000 bonus for working in a region with a staff shortage and compensation for relocation costs.

"We can't keep up with that," said trade unionist and ÖVP National Council member Gertraud Salzmann on Ö1's "Morgenjournal."

"If salaries are heading towards €5,000, then the ministry and the legislature must make them significantly more attractive," Kimberger demanded in the Oberösterreichische Nachrichten. In Austria, however, financial incentives "are not even being considered," criticised Upper Austrian AHS trade unionist Werner Hittenberger (FCG).

What is the government doing to improve the situation?

Austria's Ministry of Education has an action programme nicknamed 'Klasse Job' (a wordplay on the words for "great" and "class") to combat the teacher shortage.

Minister Martin Polaschek (ÖVP) said that the government wants to make schools more attractive places to be and to work at. Additionally, he said the teaching profession should be promoted more strongly among students. 

The government strategy also focuses on personnel management and recruiting - two current bottlenecks in Austria. Last year, the government launched a €600,000 campaign to promote the profession.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Is homeschooling legal in Austria?

Another part of the strategy includes revising the teacher training - the government wants to promote full-time work after completing a bachelor's degree while the teacher completes their master's. 

The changeover in elementary school teacher training from the current four years of a bachelor's degree and one year of a master's degree to three years of a bachelor's degree plus two years of a master's degree is already fixed. It should be implemented in 2024/25, according to Vienna.at

This year, around 4,300 teachers hired at Austria's compulsory schools did not have the classical teacher training, but this number should rise soon to combat shortages, according to an ORF report. In addition, the federal government is promoting courses for people with a "suitable" degree and professional experience to start studying at teacher training colleges in the fall. 

When fully developed, the ministry expects 200 to 300 graduates in the programme every year.

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