by Mario Pomini
Occasionally the long-standing theme of the modest salary of teachers in Italy and their almost non-existent economic progression comes to the fore. Certainly those who choose a career as a teacher do not do it for economic reasons and not only in Italy. The data of Education at Glance 2020 we are told that on average a European teacher receives an income that is equal to 94% of the income of a graduate from the same country. In Italy the percentage drops to 77%. Therefore the choice of going to class for a graduate is certainly not convenient from an economic point of view. The situation is different for school managers, here the thing is reversed. A principal in Europe earns about 46% more than the average of graduates, even in Italy 88% more. So the Italian principals can complain about many things, but not about their salary.
Two ministers of education, first Lorenzo Fioramonti and now Patrizio Bianchi, have moved to bridge this pay gap of teachers compared to other professions with different approaches and different luck. Both are economists and this allows us an unprecedented comparison. The Minister of the 5 Stars of the Conte II government had asked his government team for a contribution of about two billion euros to begin tackling the issue. Money intended to substantially increase teachers’ salaries. Given the large number of teachers, a salary increase of about two thousand-three thousand euros per capita per year could be estimated. Not a big amount but still a significant economic recognition and above all social.
On this issue, the minister threatened to resign, which was then accepted because the government decided not to satisfy his requests. There was no money, it was said. Too bad that two years later the Draghi government found six billion euros, still in debt, to reduce taxes to medium-to-high-range taxpayers, with a tax reduction of around 100 euros per month. So it was not a question of resources, but of strategic choices.
Now another Minister of Education and economist, Patrizio Bianchi, has intervened on this issue, taking advantage of the legislative train of the PNRR. The recent decree law of 30 April which reformed access to the teaching profession also touched on the theme of the career of teachers. This time we do not speak directly of money: the text, very complex on this point, provides that teachers who follow three-year in-service training courses can anticipate the salary increases. But not all, only 40%, and not immediately, but starting from 2026.
Minister Bianchi fully embraced Confindustria’s thesis that has always wanted to link wage increases, even in schools, to increased productivity, that is, to additional teachers’ activities. Reasonable idea in the private sector but not applicable to school, where productivity measurement it is very problematic, to put it mildly. It is not surprising that this tarot liberalism of the Pd minister, much more work for a few euros in a few years, has found the immediate and total opposition of the teachers first and of the unions later. A general observation remains.
Is there a school policy of the progressive front on this issue? Apparently not. Fioramonti’s extremely bold, but necessary, ideas to bring teachers and knowledge back to the center of political strategy were not supported not even from his party who preferred to give the deputy Fraccaro breath and the insane (economically speaking) building bonus of 110%. Even worse did the Democratic Party which aligned itself with Confindustria’s theses, without however putting on the plate the necessary resources to reward the increased productivity of the teachers. It is not surprising then that the traditionally progressive school people can turn their backs and turn elsewhere.
At least on this point the conservative front is coherent: of the center-right school almost nothing matters and plays the usual card of electoral populism by promising to hire ope legis to all the precarious. Meanwhile, the knots of our school system remain culpably unsolved. It is true that the teacher does not look much at his economic career, but basically Confindustria is right, which links productivity to wages, even if this must be read differently. It is difficult to expect a greater commitment from Italian teachers when their salaries, compared to the earnings of a graduate, they are at the bottom of the European ranking, outnumbered only by those of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. But teachers also have their responsibilities because they too casually rejected the competition of Minister Luigi Berlinguer in 2000 which, despite its limitations, would have represented the real turning point for their pay career. It is probably from there that we need to start again, perhaps with the necessary adjustments.