Indicator D5. Who are the teachers?

On average across OECD countries, 70% of teachers are women in all levels of education combined (Table D5.1). The greatest concentration of female teachers occurs in the earlier years of schooling, and the share shrinks with each successive level of education. While women represent 96% of the teaching staff at pre-primary level and 82% at primary level, they make up 63% at secondary level and only 44% at tertiary level on average across OECD countries (Figure D5.1).

Women account for over 85% of pre-primary teachers in all OECD and partner countries with available data, and over 65% of primary teachers in all countries except Japan (64%), Turkey (64%), India (54%) and Saudi Arabia (52%). In secondary education, although female teachers continue to dominate, the proportion of female teachers is smaller than at lower levels. Women make up 68% of lower secondary teachers on average across OECD countries, with values ranging from 43% in Japan to 84% in Latvia. At upper secondary level the share of female teachers’ drops to 60% on average across OECD countries, with significant variations across countries (from 31% in Japan to 81% in Latvia) (Table D5.1).

At the tertiary level, the gender profile of teachers is reversed, with men making up the majority across OECD countries and female teachers accounting for 44% of the teaching staff on average. In fact, among countries with available data, only in Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand and the Russian Federation do women make up more than 50% of teachers in tertiary education (Figure D5.1).

The share of women among upper secondary teachers tends to be higher in general than in vocational programmes, although women are over-represented in both types of programmes. In general education, women account for 63% of teachers on average across OECD countries, and there are more female than male teachers in all countries except Switzerland (48%). The share of female teachers is particularly high in countries such as Latvia and Lithuania, where over 80% are women. In contrast, in vocational programmes, women account for a smaller share of teachers: 56% on average across OECD countries. The share of female teachers in vocational education ranges from 45% or less in Denmark and Switzerland to over 70% in Latvia, Lithuania and the Slovak Republic (Table D5.1).

In some countries, the share of female teachers differs significantly between general and vocational programmes. For instance, in Austria, Brazil, Chile, Finland, Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania, the share of female teachers in general programmes is at least 10 percentage points higher than in vocational programmes, even though women still make up at least 50% vocational teachers in all of these countries except Brazil (49%) and Chile (48%). In contrast, the share of female teachers is the same in general and vocational programmes in the Czech Republic (at 60%), Norway (55%) and Slovenia (67%) (Table D5.1).

The higher proportion of women among young teachers, together with the predominance of female tertiary graduates in the field of education (see Education at a Glance Database), may raise concerns about future gender imbalances at the primary to upper secondary levels, where women already dominate the profession.

In most countries, the share of women is higher among young teachers (under the age of 30) than among older teachers (aged 50 or older). At primary level, the difference between the two age groups is rather small, with women making up 83% of the younger group, compared to 82% of the older group, on average across OECD countries. At lower secondary level, the difference is also small on average: women make up 68% of teachers under the age of 30, and 67% of those of aged 50 or older. The difference grows larger at upper secondary level: on average across OECD countries, 63% of young teachers are women at this level, compared to 57% in the older group (Table D5.2).

However, at tertiary level, where female teachers are in the minority on average, the higher share of women among the younger generation of teachers suggests there will be an increase in gender parity. On average across OECD countries, the share of women is closer to 50% among younger tertiary teachers, accounting for 51% of teachers under the age of 30, compared to 39% among those aged 50 or older (Table D5.2).

The indicators above are consistent with the gender distribution dynamics observed over the decade, which point to a gradual increase in the gender gap in the teaching profession at the primary and secondary level, but a decrease at the tertiary level.

On average, for all OECD countries with data for both years, the rise in the share of female teachers (from 69% in 2005 to 72% in 2019) has widened the gender gap by 3 percentage points for the primary and secondary levels combined. This increase in the gender gap reaches 7 percentage points in Ireland and Korea, 8 percentage points in Greece and 11 percentage points in Slovenia. The share of female teachers in 2019 remains below the OECD average in Korea (68%) and Greece (67%), while it is above-average in Ireland (79%) and Slovenia (89%) (Table D5.2).

At tertiary level, on average across OECD countries with available trend data, there was a 5 percentage-point decrease in the gender gap, as the share of female teachers increased from 39% in 2005 to 44% in 2019. The largest increases in the share of female teachers (over 10 percentage points) are found in Japan, the Netherlands and the Russian Federation. While women remain under-represented among tertiary teachers in Japan (28%) and the Netherlands (46%), the share of female tertiary teachers reaches 62% in 2019 in the Russian Federation. At the other end of the spectrum, the Czech Republic experienced a 2 percentage-point decrease in the share of female tertiary teachers, from 40% in 2005 to 38% in 2019 (Figure D5.2).

The persistent gender imbalances in the teaching profession, together with imbalances in school leadership, have raised a number of concerns, and countries such as the United Kingdom have implemented policies encouraging the recruitment and retention of a diverse and inclusive teacher workforce, including in terms of gender (OECD, 2014[7]) (OECD, 2017[2]).

Teachers’ age distribution varies considerably across countries and levels of education, and can be affected by a variety of factors, such as the size and age distribution of the population, the duration of tertiary education, and teachers’ salaries and working conditions. Declining birth rates, for example, may drive down the demand for new teachers, and more time spent in tertiary education can delay the entrance of teachers into the labour market. Competitive salaries, good working conditions and career development opportunities may have attracted young people to teaching in some countries or helped to retain effective teachers in others.

Young teachers (below the age of 30) only account for a small proportion of the teaching population: 12% in primary education, 11% in lower secondary and 8% in upper secondary, on average across OECD countries. The pattern is particularly striking at the upper secondary level, where young teachers make up less than 10% of the teaching population in most countries. In fact, they account for 5% or less of upper secondary teachers in the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland (Table D5.3).

On average across OECD countries, more than half of primary, lower secondary and upper secondary teachers are aged between 30 and 49, and a high share of teachers are at least 50 years old. The share of older teachers (aged 50 and over) increases with the education level, from 33% in primary education to 38% in secondary education and 40% in tertiary education. In most countries, at least one teacher in every three at tertiary level is aged 50 or over. There is, however, a high level of variation across countries, with the share at tertiary level ranging from 13% in Luxembourg to 56% in Italy (Figure D5.3).

The ageing of the teaching force has a number of implications for countries’ education systems. In addition to prompting recruitment and training efforts to replace retiring teachers, it may also affect budgetary decisions. In most school systems, teachers’ salaries increase with years of teaching experience. Thus, the ageing of teachers increases school costs, which can in turn limit the resources available for other initiatives (see Indicator C7).

In addition, during the current COVID-19 crisis, the high share of teachers over the age of 50 may raise health concerns, as older individuals are more at risk of developing severe forms of the disease (Jordan, Adab and Cheng, 2020[15]). As an attempt ensure the safe reopening of schools, a number of countries had prioritised teachers’ vaccination as of March 2021. Teachers’ age was a criterion for the prioritisation of vaccination among teachers at the pre-primary to upper secondary levels combined in Austria, Chile, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia and Slovenia (OECD, 2021[3]).

There are two categories of instructional personnel:

  • Teachers’ aides and teaching/research assistants include non-professional personnel or students who support teachers in providing instruction to students.

  • Teaching staff refers to professional personnel directly involved in teaching to students. The classification includes classroom teachers, special-education teachers and other teachers who work with a whole class of students in a classroom, in small groups in a resource room, or in one-to-one teaching situations inside or outside a regular class. At the tertiary level, academic staff include personnel whose primary assignment is instruction or research. Teaching staff also include departmental chairs whose duties include some teaching, but exclude non-professional personnel who support teachers in providing instruction to students, such as teachers’ aides and other paraprofessional personnel.

The share of teachers in the population corresponds to the proportion of teachers in a given age group (e.g. below the age of 30) among the total population of the same age group.

For more information, please see the OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics 2018 (OECD, 2018[16]) and Annex 3 for country-specific notes (https://www.oecd.org/education/education-at-a-glance/EAG2021_Annex3_ChapterD.pdf).

Data refer to the academic year 2018/19 and are based on the UNESCO-UIS/OECD/EUROSTAT data collection on education statistics administered by the OECD in 2020 (for details, see Annex 3 at https://www.oecd.org/education/education-at-a-glance/EAG2021_Annex3_ChapterD.pdf).

References

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[14] Beilock, S. et al. (2010), “Female teachers’ math anxiety affects girls’ math achievement”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 107/5, http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0910967107.

[5] Croft, A. et al. (2014), “The Second Shift Reflected in the Second Generation”, Psychological Science, Vol. 25/7, pp. 1418-1428, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797614533968.

[9] Drudy, S. (2008), “Gender balance/gender bias: the teaching profession and the impact of feminisation”, Gender and Education, Vol. 20/4, pp. 309-323, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09540250802190156.

[11] Holmlund, H. and K. Sund (2008), “Is the gender gap in school performance affected by the sex of the teacher?”, Labour Economics, Vol. 15/1, pp. 37-53, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/J.LABECO.2006.12.002.

[12] Hutchings, M. et al. (2008), “Nice and kind, smart and funny: What children like and want to emulate in their teachers”, Oxford Review of Education, Vol. 34/2, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03054980701663959.

[15] Jordan, R., P. Adab and K. Cheng (2020), “Covid-19: Risk factors for severe disease and death”, BMJ, p. m1198, http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1198.

[6] Kane, J. and J. Mertz (2012), “Debunking Myths about Gender and Mathematics Performance”, Notices of the American Mathematical Society, Vol. 59/01, p. 10, http://dx.doi.org/10.1090/noti790.

[8] OECD (2021), Positive, High-achieving Students?: What Schools and Teachers Can Do, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/3b9551db-en.

[3] OECD (2021), The State of School Education – One year into the pandemic, OECD Publishing, Paris.

[1] OECD (2019), TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I): Teachers and School Leaders as Lifelong Learners, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/1d0bc92a-en.

[16] OECD (2018), OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics 2018: Concepts, Standards, Definitions and Classifications, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264304444-en.

[2] OECD (2017), “Gender imbalances in the teaching profession”, Education Indicators in Focus, No. 49, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/54f0ef95-en.

[4] OECD (2015), “What Lies Behind Gender Inequality in Education?”, PISA in Focus, No. 49, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5js4xffhhc30-en.

[7] OECD (2014), PISA 2012 Results: What Students Know and Can Do (Volume I, Revised edition, February 2014): Student Performance in Mathematics, Reading and Science, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264208780-en.

[13] OECD (2014), TALIS 2013 Results: An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264196261-en.

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