The Demographic and Labor Realites of Public School Teachers in Portugal
News | 08 February 2024 The Demographic and Labor Realites of Public School Teachers in Portugal

On February 8, at Colégio Efanor, Matosinhos, EDULOG has hosted a debate on the demographic and labor realities of public school teachers in Portugal. Luís Catela Nunes, Scientific Director at the Nova SBE Economics of Education Knowledge Center and member of EDULOG’s Advisory Board was one of the participants.

Motivated by the recent publication of a scientific study on this subject (“Professores sob a lupa: A realidade demográfica e laboral dos professores do Ensino público em Portugal, 2016/17 – 2020/21"), the debate also had the participation of Isabel Flores, the study’s coordinator and researcher at ISCTE, Nuno Neto Rodrigues, General Director at DGEEC (General Directorate on Education and Science Statistic), and David Justino, former Minister for Education and member of EDULOG’s Advisory Board.

Moderated by Samuel Silva, a journalist from Público, this debate was focused on two main themes – teachers’ absenteeism, analysed for the first time by Isabel Flores’ study, and the teacher shortages that will increase in coming years in Portugal due to the retirement of older teachers and a lack of interest from the younger generation on the teaching profession. The latter has been analysed in Nova SBE Economics of Education Knowledge Center’s study “Forecast of Teacher Demand and Supply between 2021 and 2030”, coordinated by Luís Catela Nunes.

Regarding absenteeism, Isabel Flores’ study indicated that, each day, there are 5000 classes in Portugal where at least one teacher is missing without being replaced. A significant number of these absences happen because of ongoing disease. It has been assessed that about 40% of public-school teachers are never absent, 50% are occasionally absent and the remaining 10% are responsible for 80% of absences. The latter group is composed by teachers with ages around 60 years old and with a history of ongoing disease.

The stability of the absenteeism levels throughout the five years that have been studied and through the countries’ different regions make this a predictable phenomenon, which allows public policy makers to take it into account when planning for school management needs. Regarding teacher shortages, Luís Catela Nunes stated that their distribution is not homogeneous, as there are regions of the country and teaching fields where it is much more difficult to attract new teachers, such as the Lisbon Metropolitan  Area and the  Algarve, because of high housing costs, and the STEM areas, because, with the same qualifications, a professional from those areas can obtain much higher wages in jobs that aren’t associated with teaching.

When talking about the financial incentives that will be necessary to attract teachers to areas and fields with less attractivity, Luís Catela Nunes adds that these incentives might not be enough to solve the problem, and that it will be necessary to develop an attractivity package that includes the existence of a positive work environment in schools, the creation of new teacher mentoring and induction by more experienced ones, stable contracts and a lessening of the red tape load. The Researcher mentioned international studies that indicate that only 1 in 100 young people want to be teachers and that parents tend to discourage their children to pursue that professional path. He also mentions young people’s lack of knowledge about the complex structure of the teaching career and the rules of public teacher selection contests.

Luís Catela Nunes agrees that assessing the quality of teachers as they enter the profession and providing adequate tools to young people who want to pursue a teaching career are essential to ensure a balance between having good quality teachers and having a good quantity of teachers in the public school system.

Teacher shortages, as Luís Catela Nunes says, are going to affect everyone and will span from public to private schools. To face these shortages, private teaching establishments will need to raise teachers’ salaries. Consequently, the fees that families pay will also increase. This is, however, an issue of equity, since it will affect more those who have less financial means to pay for schooling or for mechanisms that compensate the lack of teachers such as outside-school support lessons.

Click here to watch the full debate.

What's happening