Teacher pay raises seen as campaigning, unrewarding for teacher effort

History

Human Resources Minister Zoltán Balog yesterday reiterated his promise of June that 150,000 public school teachers in Hungary would be receiving a substantial pay increase beginning this school year, though changing a few minor details.

The average teacher in a Hungarian public school will be receiving a 34% pay increase starting on September 1, 2013. The new figure represents 60% of a total wage-scale increase to take place incrementally over the next four years, whereas the incipient pay hike had been slated at 50%. For the coming school year, this would jump the average teacher’s salary from Ft 160,000 to Ft 214,400 per month. By 2017, the expected average would be Ft 256,600 under the plan.

The average monthly salary in Hungary is currently Ft 230,000; the minimum wage was set at Ft 98,000 for 2013.

Despite what appears to be seeming good news, Teachers Trade Union (PSz) president Mrs. István Galló nevertheless took issue with the plan, stating that the scheme would not properly reward excellence among teachers with incentives and bonuses.

Meanwhile, detractors of prime minister Viktor Orbán and his administration were quick to imagine ulterior motives for the much-need wage hike. In a Portfolio article whose English-language title reads “This is how Hungary is hiking teachers' wages ahead of '14 ballot” (“Újabb részletek: így emelik a pedagógusok bérét!” for the Hungarian version), the unnamed editorialist writes that “it has become clear that the government is going on a spending spree this year, barely two weeks after passing the latest fiscal adjustment package in Parliament,” calling the pay raise a “deficit-generating move.”

Though Portfolio does note some flip-flopping on the construction of this pay raise vis-à-vis the central government budget and EU deficit procedure, the piece nevertheless states that “the impact [of the pay raise] on the budget deficit will be on a lesser scale” than previously thought. The government set a goal of keeping the deficit at 2.7% of GDP or lower; the European Union requirement is 3.0%.

Speaking more directly was Erste Bank analyst Orsolya Nyeste, who told Reuters simply that “It’s hard to interpret this in any other way than the government … preparing for 2014 elections, and it seems that it increases spending” – though in the same article, Nyeste guesses that the pay raise (and an estimated HUF 44 billion cost) “should not threaten” even the self-imposed 2.7% mark.

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