Armenia’s underpaid schoolteachers appear to have gained little from a more than 30 percent increase in the average public sector salary which took effect this month.
The pay rises, touted by the Armenian government as proof of its successful socioeconomic policies, have affected some 233,000 people working for various government agencies and public institutions. Civil servants mostly based in Yerevan are a key beneficiary of the measure, having their wages increase by an average of 68 percent.
The pay rise for the 44,000 or so employees of more than 1,400 public schools across Armenia is far more modest. According to the government, it amounts to 14 percent. Teachers and school administrations cited on Wednesday even lower rates ranging from 8 to 10 percent.
For teachers born after 1973, these increases will be largely offset by additional social security contributions which they have to make since July 1 in accordance with Armenia’s transition to a new pension system. The payments will be equivalent to 5 percent of their gross wages.
Shoghakat Babayan, the account of Yerevan’s Secondary School No. 50, spoke of widespread disappointment among her co-workers with what they see as the government’s failure to make good on its promises given last year. “It is the ministry employees and high-ranking government officials that are getting real pay rises,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
According to Babayan, full-time teachers working at the school have until now been paid 74,000 drams ($180) a month, or less than half of the average nationwide wage in Armenia. She said most of the school’s 22 teachers work on a part-time basis, earning between 30,000 and 40,000 drams.
Sofia Hovsepian, a psychologist working at another Yerevan school, said her monthly salary will now total around 42,000 drams, up by less than 2,000 drams. She dismissed the increase as a “mockery” of herself and her colleagues.
“You can’t even subsist with such a salary,” said Hovsepian. “There is no oversight [of the government] in this country. They do what they want while we try to survive as we can.” “A teacher’s salary today is not worth even a pension,” she added.
The public sector wages were originally supposed to rise in July 2013 in line with pledges given by President Serzh Sarkisian shortly after he won a second term in a disputed election. The government has never clearly explained reasons for the one-year delay.
Incidentally, Sarkisian’s own salary has been tripled to 1.22 million drams ($3,000). Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian and members of his cabinet, many of them wealthy individuals, have gotten similarly drastic pay rises.