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I left the UK in 2004. There are jobs currently advertised that pay the same, or in some cases 10% less, than I was earning then. Add even a very small amount of inflation and this makes for a huge drop in spending power. The average salary that people talk about in Japan today is the same as when I first visited Japan in 2005. I saw hourly rates in Portugal, where I first taught, a decade later that were the same as when I left.

When I first taught, there was no internet, no mobile phones and flights were expensive. I have since lived in places far more different and remote that were closer to home. When I started, salaries were reasonable- they had to be. Now there is a race to the bottom, and the starter ESL teacher will be paid far less than before. There are still opportunities for specialists, but ESL is a far less valuable profession today than when I started out and that race to the bottom is only likely to get worse.

Categories: General


I could barely live on my earnings when I moved to Spain in 2009. I know from friends who are still there that the cost of living has gone up but the pay for English teachers has gone down across the board. Much as I would love to go back there and do it again, I simply can't afford to.

I started in 1983 and things were so much more comfortable then. It is scary to see jobs advertised that offer a third less than I was paid a decade ago.

I think you have to see salaries in comparison with the average costs of life in the given region/country. I imagine the costs of living in Portugal as somewhat "cheaper" than in the UK so the lower salaries would be justified. Also, I think there is a huge gap if you teach English in a state school, a private school or at a language school adressing companies.

It's about the fact that salaries have not gone up in some countries in many years rather than a comparison of the differences between countries. People are earning less in many countries than they were a decade or so ago. I earned more in the past than many do now. Salaries are falling.

Salaries have increased significantly in China.
The salaries have gone up in the past 2 years. Making it possible to actually save money.

That's very good news. It's good to know that the race to the bottom is not universal.

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