A temporary committee reportedly representing the interests of 32,000 public school teachers around the nation demanded that the monthly base salary of teachers be increased to 1.6 million MNT. Teachers have cited that their current low wages are not enough to live on and have caused many of them to take out loans just to get by. If their demands are not met by August 24, the committee threatened to strike on September 1, the beginning of the new academic year.
The committee held a press conference on August 17 to announce their demands.
“Our temporary committee has been actively working since August 10. There is a subcommittee at every province. Through our questionnaire on our Facebook group, we have decided to provide Cabinet with three demands. We demand that a response be delivered to us by August 24. If our demands are not met, more than 32,000 teachers will be participating in a strike on September 1,” Ts.Munkhtuya, a teacher at School No.40 in Ulaanbaatar and one of the leaders of the committee stated.
The three demands by the teachers are:
1. Increase the base monthly salary of teachers to 1.6 million MNT by September.
2. Give public school teachers the public servant status.
3. Raise the monthly salary of teachers to amount equitable to 3,500 USD by 2020.
The current base salary for teachers is 535,000 MNT to 608,457 MNT, depending on tenure. The committee is essentially demanding that the salary of teachers be tripled. Whether the teachers merit the salary increase or not is not in question. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone that vehemently opposes a salary increase for the educators of the nation’s youth. Seeing as education is a fundamental part of society and plays a large role in the future of a nation, increasing the salaries of one of the most important professions seems like an easy decision.
What the committee is demanding, however, is simply not realistic. Just increasing the base salary of every one of the estimated 70,000 teachers by only 20,000 MNT will cost 16.8 billion MNT annually. If the government is to give in to the demands of teachers and increase the base salary by almost one million MNT, it will cost around 800 billion MNT. In contrast, the total annual budget for the education sector in 2017 is 1.3 trillion MNT. Strictly economics wise, the salary increase is not attainable. Even if the government was somehow willing to expend an additional amount equaling to nearly 60 percent of the educational budget, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will not allow such a disastrous move. The reason the IMF can influence and affect the budgetary expenditure is because Mongolia entered into their extended fund facility program, which stipulates that Mongolia maintain strict budgetary discipline. Basically the government can’t raise the base salary of teachersby 10,000 MNT, let alone one million MNT.
This is not to mention that such an increase in wages to more than 70,000 people will show little to no improvement in the standard of living for teachers. In fact, the government would have to print almost 800 billion MNT, seeing as there are no other sources of budget revenue to compensate. Pumping that much money into the market will not only cause inflation to surge significantly but it will also devalue the MNT dramatically, causing an already weakened economy to tumble.
Looking at the third demand of the committee, the first demand to increase salaries to 1.6 million MNT seems tame compared to it. The demand to increase monthly wages of public school teachers to an amount equal to 3,500 USD is next to impossible as of yet.
These demands are not being made by a few teachers; they are being made by a union that proclaims it represents 32,000 teachers who are threatening to strike on September 1. When the government most definitely doesn’t and can’t meet their demands, they will go on a strike. In the end, all it does is hurt the students and damage the reputation of teachers. When teachers go on strike, people will not be pointing the blame to the government but rather to the teachers. This in turn will diminish any public backing that teachers had, causing their movement to ultimately fail.
You will rarely find opponents of increasing teacher wages, education is universally heralded as a societal necessity. However, creating a stir by making unrealistic demands and threatening a strike will not win teachers many supporters.