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02 December 2023

73% UAE teachers ‘looking for new job’

45% of teachers said they had no pay rise last year.(Shutterstock)

By Staff

Almost three quarters of teachers in the UAE are actively looking for a new position, according to a latest survey.

Seventy-three per cent of teachers would consider moving immediately and their primary motivation for doing so is to increase their salary.

The ‘UAE Teacher Survey 2016’ was carried out among 531 teachers across the UAE by WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, the UAE’s guide for private schools and the UAE Learning Network, an online network of educators in country.

Among the respondents were 24 principals.  More than 48 per cent of the respondents were in Dubai and 43 per cent in Abu Dhabi with the remainder across the other five emirates.

With only a lucky 8 per cent of teachers receiving a real salary increase last year, that teachers are dissatisfied, and largely move on after contracts come to an end is perhaps unsurprising.

According to the survey a further 16 per cent of teachers did receive a pay rise but below inflation, while 15 per cent got a pay rise at the inflation rate.

The largest chunk of respondents, 45 per cent of teachers, said they had no pay rise at all last year.

“These findings should come as a wake-up call to school management and school operators,” said Shaun Robison, partner at the UAE Learning Network.  “When three out of four members of your staff room are actively searching job websites, there is a big issue.  Salary is consistently a problem across all curricula and across all salary levels.”

The survey revealed that 39 per cent of teachers said they were unhappy with their current salary compared to 38 per cent who were somewhat happy, and 24 per cent who said they were happy with their current salary. Forty-four per cent surveyed said their salary did not increase at all last year.

The UAE Teacher Survey revealed teachers in the UAE are highly qualified with 52 per cent holding a masters degree. This quality, however, enables them to choose from other popular teaching destinations such as the US, Qatar, the UK, Australia and Hong Kong which are high on the list of desirable teaching destinations, according to the survey. The reasons given for considering a move elsewhere ranged from ‘better salary’, ‘better lifestyle’ ‘the cost of living in the UAE’ ‘better work-life balance’ ‘fewer school inspections’ and ‘better professional development opportunities’.

“From our studies we know that for parents the quality of teaching talent is a top consideration when it comes to assessing the right school for their child,” said James Mullan, co-founder of WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. “The worry is that, with a well-publicised teacher shortage gathering pace among international schools across the globe, the UAE could be left behind in the ‘talent race’.”

A significant percentage of teachers do benefit from some form of 'expat salary package' and housing is its third most common constituent. Just under half (48 per cent) of teachers who took part in the survey are given accommodation during their period of employment, with another 33 per cent given a housing allowance.

The most common elements that form part of a teacher's total package are an annual air ticket and health insurance. However, employees are entitled to both of these under UAE labour law. The fact that 37 per cent of teachers do not get an air ticket, and 31 per cent are not part of an insurance scheme suggest a significant number of teachers in the UAE are either new to the country, or of more concern, are not on full time, permanent contracts.

The survey, which ran throughout the month of January, also highlighted the impact of the rising cost of living for teachers in the UAE, who frequently recorded a lack of savings and a desire for a better salary.  Further to this, 44 per cent of teachers want better allowances, such as improved housing and better career development. Thirty-five per cent of all teachers surveyed said they were happy with their overall package excluding their salary whereas 20 per cent got no additional benefits other than their salary.

Among curricula teachers at American curriculum schools are the most unhappy with 86 per cent saying they would consider leaving the UAE for another country if a better opportunity came up.

“The American curriculum is the most popular among schools in Abu Dhabi and its presence is growing significantly in Dubai and the other emirates,” said Kevin Simpson, partner at the UAE Learning Network.  “But there are excellent opportunities closer to home, in particular in Qatar as well as in South East Asia as the school market is developing there rapidly. The data in the survey indicates that change is on the horizon for American Curriculum schools in the UAE.”