April 14. 2024. 7:00

The Daily

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Missing: Teachers for Europe

Teaching has become unattractive as a career in Europe. Many education graduates seek jobs in other professions, while those who teach tend to retire early, EU education ministers said at a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday (7 March).

The low attractiveness of the profession is a combination of low salaries and excessive workload, which led teachers to strike in several European countries in the last months.

The result is a widespread shortage of teachers across most member states.

In the school year 2019-2020, 35 education systems in Europe were suffering from a shortage of lower secondary school teachers, according to a 2021 report that looked at 41 education systems in 39 countries.

At Tuesday‘s meeting of EU ministers, the European Commission voiced concern about the lack of teaching staff across the Union, saying it is “committed to address the problem”.

Yet, the Commission cannot do much more than what it is already doing – promoting teacher mobility and rewarding innovative teaching practices with a prize – which will likely not be enough to “restore the prestige” of the profession called for by the ministers.

While brainstorming solutions to the problem, EU education ministers said they are looking at ways to attract retirees back into the profession and open teaching careers to those who decide to work in a classroom later in life.

Only a few focused on the issue of fair remuneration, despite teachers’ frequent demands for better pay. According to a 2018 OECD survey, only 39% of respondents were satisfied with their salary. Moreover, only 26% of teachers thought their work was valued by society.

Asked whether member states should focus on increasing salaries for teachers, Commissioner for Education Mariya Gabriel said “salary is not the only factor to promote the attractiveness of teaching”, and mentioned – rightly so – the role that wellbeing in the classroom plays in keeping teachers in the profession.

However, a well-remunerated career prospect is certainly one factor that could encourage young people to pursue education studies and hold on to their teaching job once they graduate.

And European countries need young teachers.

According to Eurostat data, in 2018, 40% of primary and secondary school teachers across the EU were over 50 years old. In Italy, Lithuania, Estonia, Greece and Bulgaria, the share was even higher, at around 50% or more. In 2020, only 7% of the total teaching workforce was under 30 years old.

As the Commissioner said: “the shortage of teachers will be a priority subject for the next few years.”

However, as long as European governments overlook fair remuneration, solving the teacher shortage will remain wishful thinking. And Europe will keep missing its teachers.

The workplace should be a safe space for everyone. However, this is still not the case for 12.5% of workers in the EU, who reported experiencing adverse social behaviour at work in a recently published Eurofound survey.

According to the survey conducted in 2021, overall women are more at risk than men of suffering from adverse social behaviour such as bullying, harassment, violence, threats, or unwanted sexual attention, which are linked to negative mental and physical health consequences.

In particular, women are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from unwanted sexual attention in the workplace compared to men. This affects in particular young women between 18–34 years old, while the risk decreases for women over 35 years of age.

The situation is particularly dire for healthcare and frontline workers, three times more likely to suffer from unwanted sexual attention than the EU average.

Children at risk of poverty in Europe increase, report shows. The number of children at risk of poverty in Europe increased to over 19.6 million, with Spain and Romania among the most affected countries, according to a new report on 14 EU countries conducted by Save the Children. According to the NGO, the increase is linked to the cost of living crisis, the climate crisis and the pandemic. Save the Children called on member states to implement the EU child guarantee against childhood poverty and exclusion as only 19 out of 27 have so far submitted the national action plans due in March last year.

Vote on due diligence report postponed in the Parliament’s legal affairs committee. The vote on the report on due diligence rules in the legal affairs committee foreseen on Monday (13 March) was postponed due to slow progress on negotiations. The legal affairs committee, which is leading the work on the file, is now expected to vote at the end of April. The final Parliament’s vote on the proposed rules on corporate accountability is still expected during the plenary session in May.

EU Council rubberstamps reform of European Long-Term Investment Funds (ELTIF) reform. On Tuesday (7 March), EU ministers gave the final green light for the reformed ELTIF regulations, which Council and Commission hailed as a further step to deepen the Capital Markets Union. The reform was aimed at simplifying the rules and allowing more investors to participate in the financial products.

Excessive Deficit Procedures are back on the menu for 2024. On Wednesday (8 March), the EU Commission presented its fiscal guidance for next year. It announced that the time of the general escape clause was over, and that, starting in April 2024, it would propose opening up Excessive Deficit Procedures for member states with fiscal deficits that exceed 3% of GDP in 2023. Read more.

Production targets and ‘Buy European’ clauses in the Net-Zero Industry Act? A leaked draft of the Net-Zero Industry Act suggests that the EU Commission might propose production targets for clean technologies in the EU, which would mark a further step towards a more interventionist industrial policy. Moreover, some clauses might introduce discriminatory measures against foreign content in public procurement and subsidy schemes for clean technologies. Whether these clauses remain in the final proposal, will be revealed next Tuesday (14 March), when the Commission is due to present the much-expected text.

EU Legislators agree on European Year of Skills. On Wednesday (8 March), negotiators from the EU Parliament, the EU Commission, and the Swedish Presidency of the EU Council agreed to start the so-called “European Year of Skills” on 9 May this year. The legislators want to cooperate more closely with social partners to “foster talent, improve qualifications and acquire new skills.” Like any “European Year of soandso”, it remains to be seen whether the year can achieve tangible results. For more information on the European skills problem, read our EURACTIV special report on the topic.

Bulgarian government doubles down on unfair retail trade practices. Retail chains in Bulgaria have caught the eye of the authorities as the Commission for Consumer Protection has revealed the high rate of violations and suspected unfair trade practices in the retail sector. Read more.

Slovenia mulls faster labour market access for asylum seekers. Slovenia is considering shortening the time asylum seekers must wait before accessing the labour market, with the Interior Ministry saying on Thursday that a proposal is already in the pipeline. Read more.

Finland wakes up to its dependency on China. It is high time Finland diversifies its production and supply chains to come away from its trade dependence with China, even though finding alternatives is difficult, a new study states. Read more.

EU paper predicts sombre future for the German economy. The EU’s largest economy is steering towards a bleak future, with businesses more pessimistic than during the height of the pandemic, a leaked EU paper reads. Read more.

Albania mulls changes to anti-money laundering rules amid greylisting woes. The Albanian parliament’s Laws Commission has started examining proposed amendments to anti-money laundering laws at a time the country languishes on the FATF grey list and is pursuing a controversial fiscal amnesty initiative. Read more.

French protest pensions reform in record numbers amid energy output threat. The French took to the streets in record numbers on Tuesday to protest the controversial pensions reform for the sixth time since January, with energy sector players promising a ‘hellish’ week for the government as it is set on cutting energy supplies. Read more.

Spain imposes wide-reaching 40% gender quota from 2026. Large public and private companies must ensure women make up at least 40% of their decision-making bodies from 2026, according to a draft bill approved by the government on Tuesday that also applies to election candidates, members of government and professional associations. Read more.

Slovenian court throws out recourse for bailed-in bank investors. Slovenia’s top court has abrogated a law that required the central bank to compensate those who lost their investments during the banking sector bailout of 2013 when tens of thousands of holders of shares and junior bonds were completely wiped out. Read more.

The gender gap in Europe’s street names is here to stay. Progress on the gender gap in streets names is too slow, write Alice Corona and Lorenzo Ferrari. Of all the streets named after individuals in 30 of Europe’s biggest cities, only 9% are named after women. In Brussels, 91.9% are dedicated to men. You can check how your city is doing on this interactive map.

How Ukrainian migrants affect the economies of European countries. This column argues that the influx of Ukrainian refugees following the Russian invasion of Ukraine had some positive economic effects, such as a short-term surge in retail trade and private consumption in 2022.

The EU’s State Aid Dilemma: In this EURACTIV explainer video, economy editor János Allenbach-Ammann breaks down the subsidy problem facing the EU now.

Why great power rivalry might just save the planet: Writing for Heatmap, a new US climate publication, Noah Millman argues that great power rivalry made the US and other players turn towards robust industrial policies that are more likely deliver a green transition than the previous multilateral efforts.