Pay levels for public sector workers—and especially teachers—are a constant source of controversy. In many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, protests and strikes suggest that pay is low, while simple comparisons to average national income per capita suggest that it is high. This study presents data on teacher earnings from 15 African countries. The results suggest that in several (seven) countries, teachers’ monthly earnings are lower than other formal sector workers with comparable levels of education and experience. However, in all of those countries, teachers report working significantly fewer hours than other workers, so that their hourly earnings are higher. Teachers who report fewer hours are no more likely to report holding a second job, although teachers overall are nearly two times more likely to hold a second job than other workers. With higher national incomes, the absolute value of teacher earnings rises, but they fall as a percentage of income per capita. The study explores variation across types of teacher contracts, the association between teacher earnings and student performance, and the association between teacher earnings premia and other aspects of economies.
The order of author names was randomly assigned using the American Economic Association’s author randomization tool.
This paper was originally published in August 2020. It was revised June 2021. The original version can be viewed here.
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