Summary of Indicator D5. Who are the teachers?

Summary of Indicator D5. Who are the teachers?

The demand for teachers depends on an array of different factors including class size, required instruction time for students, the use and availability of teaching assistants, enrolment rates at each level of education and the years of compulsory education.
The large number of teachers will reach the retirement age in many OECD countries within the next decade alongside the increase of the school-age population (in some countries), must be addressed or else will result in teacher deficit. Furthermore, the calibre of teachers is the most in-school determining factor of student achievement, therefore there is a need to attract top quality teachers and provide them with high-quality training. Hence, governments need to develop effective policies to attract and retain teachers in the teaching profession (see Indicator D7).
Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed significant challenges for education systems around the world, notably to ensure the safe return to school (for teachers and students) after the reopening of schools.

Gender profile of teachers

On average, among all OECD countries, 70% of teachers are women in all levels of education combined. The proportion of female teachers decreases with the increase of level of education where they teach. In fact – on average − women represent the 96% of teaching staff in pre-primary schools, 82% at primary level, 63% at secondary level, and only 44% at tertiary level (Figure D5.1).
Hence, at the tertiary level, the gender profile of teachers is reversed, making men the majority among teachers. Only in Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, and the Russian Federation more than 50% of teachers at this level of education are women (Figure D5.1).

Source: OECD/UIS/Eurostat (2021), Table D5.1. See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes


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 represent, on average, 63% of all teachers, but in vocational training they amount for a smaller share of teachers: 56% on average across OECD countries.

In particular, the share of female teachers differs significantly (at least 10%) between general and vocational programmes in: Austria, Brazil, Chile, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, and Lithuania. Differently the share of female teachers in general and vocational programmes is the same in the Czech Republic (at 60%), Norway (55%), and Slovenia (67%).

Potential sources and implications of gender imbalances in the teaching profession

Several factors may contribute to gender imbalances in the teaching profession. A main explanation is that social perceptions linking certain professions with a particular gender influence both men and women’s career choices. Furthermore, within the teaching profession there are gender imbalances related to the fields of study. In fact, at the lower secondary level, female teachers are less than male ones in science, mathematics, and technology. This is due to the social perception that these fields are of masculine domain.

Economic factors also contribute to the imbalance. Indeed, on average across OECD countries, male teachers earn less than other men with same level of education do in other professions, whereas this does not occur for women, thus making the teaching profession less appealing to men.

Aiming for a better balance among teachers’ genders by contributing to students developing positive gender identities and challenging stereotypes could have positive effects on students.

Trends in the gender profile of teachers

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). Furthermore, 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. The higher share of young female teachers (50% on average) compared to older ones (39% on average) at the tertiary level suggests that, in the near future, the gap between male and female teachers at this level will decrease.

Between 2005 and 2019, there has been an increase of the gender gap by 3% for the primary and secondary levels combined, in Slovenia this increase reaches 11%. On average among all OECD countries with available data for relevant years, female teachers represented 69% of teachers in 2005 and 72% in 2019. In comparison, at the tertiary level, there was a 5% decrease in the gender gap since the share of female teachers increased from 39% in 2005 to 44% in 2019.

This proves that the gender imbalance in the teaching profession has been consistent over the years, raising concerns among states. In response, for example, the United Kingdom has implemented policies aimed at encouraging the recruitment of diverse and inclusive teacher workforce.

Teachers’ age distribution

Teachers’ age distribution varies considerably across countries and levels of education. 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 data for the upper secondary level is particularly striking, whereby young teachers make up less than 10% of all teachers in most countries.

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. 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).

Source: OECD/UIS/Eurostat (2021), Table D5.3 and Education at a Glance Database, . See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes

The aging of the teaching force has many consequences such as the need to put efforts in substituting retiring teachers and the impact of budgets, since, generally, salaries increase with teachers’ experience. Thus, the aging of teachers increases school costs which can result in limiting the resources available for other initiatives (see Indicator C7).

In addition, during the 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. Hence, several countries including Austria, Chile, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia, and Slovenia have prioritized teachers’ vaccination as of March 2021.


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).


Data refers 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


Summarized by Francisca Orrego Galarce and edited by Olga Ruiz Pilato from OECD, Education at a Glance 2021: OECD Indicators – Indicator D5. Who are the teachers?

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Summary of Indicator D4. How much time do teachers and school heads spend teaching and working?

Statutory working and teaching hours only partially determine the actual workload of teachers and school heads, nonetheless they do help understanding what is expected from teachers and school heads in different countries.

Together with salaries (see Indicator D3) and average class sizes (see Indicator D2), this indicator presents some key measures of the working lives of teachers and school heads. Furthermore, it can affect the amount of financial resources countries allocate to education (see Indicator C7).

Teaching Time of Teachers

On average, across OECD countries and economies, pre-primary teachers are required to teach 989 hours per year (for 195 days). At the pre-primary level there is the most variation in hours required (from 532 hours of teaching per year in Mexico to 1,755 in Germany). These variations result from the combination of school year length and number of teaching hours per day.

The OECD daily teaching average is of more than 4 hours per day (791 hours per year) in primary school.

Whereas lower secondary school teachers teach on average 723 hours per year. However, teaching time varies considerably depending on country (from less than 600 hours in Finland to more than 1000 hours in Costa Rica, see Figure D4.1).

In some countries, the teaching time requirements may vary during a teacher’s career. For example, new teachers may have a reduced teaching load to give them time to settle in and older teachers may have reduced teaching load to allow them to keep teaching despite their age.

Therefore, teaching time tends to decrease as the level of education increases. The exceptions are Chile and Scotland (UK), where teachers are required to teach the same number of hours at all levels of education.

The largest difference in teaching time requirements is between the pre-primary and primary levels of education. In the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia and Slovenia, pre-primary school teachers are required to teach at least twice the number of hours per year as primary school teachers (see Figure D4.1)

Statutory teaching time refers to teaching time as defined by regulations. However, actual teaching time is the annual average hours spent teaching students, including overtime. Hence, the data suggests that the two parameters do not always coincide. Indeed, in Poland, lower secondary teachers teach 21% more hours than what is defined by regulations.

Teaching Time of School Heads

In almost half of the countries with available data, school heads in pre-primary institutions are also required to teach.

As for teachers, in countries where there are teaching requirements, the teaching hours required from school heads decrease as the level of education increases.

Working Time of Teachers

Countries differ in how they allocate teachers’ working time for each activity. More than half of OECD countries specify how much time teachers should be available at school, whereas other countries do not specify where teachers should fulfil their working hours.

In 17 OECD countries and economies, teachers’ statutory working time includes working time during students’ school holidays in at least one level of education. This can further the variation among countries in the annual working hours of teaching.

Teaching is the main component of teachers’ workloads, however, other activities such as assessing students, preparing lessons, correcting students’ work, in-service training and staff meetings should also be considered when analysing the demands placed on teachers.

In fact, on average, teachers spend only 44% of their working time teaching.

Teachers not only perform the non-teaching tasks that are required by regulations or school heads, they also often perform tasks voluntarily. In at least 17 countries and economies at the general lower secondary level, individual teachers decide themselves whether to engage in extracurricular activities.

Participation in professional development activities is pivotal for teachers at all levels of education, in fact it is mandatory in 23 countries.

In general, non-teaching tasks and responsibilities of teachers do not vary much across educational levels.


Figure D4.4. Task requirements of teachers, by tasks and responsibilities (2020)
Lower secondary teachers in public institutions

Figure D4.4. Task requirements of teachers, by tasks and responsibilities (2020)

Working time of school heads

As for teachers, many OECD countries define school heads’ statutory working time through regulations or contracts. Only in England (United Kingdom), the Flemish Community of Belgium, Germany and Italy are there no official documents specifying the working time for school heads.

On average, school heads work 212-215 days per year and their statutory working hours do not vary much across educational levels (average of 1,634 hours per year). Across all levels of education, school heads in Chile work the highest number of hours (1,998 hours per year), whereas those in Mexico and Ireland the least (below 1,300 hours per year).

In two/thirds of OECD countries with available data, school heads working time includes working during students’ school holidays (from 1 week in Austria and the Netherlands to 11 in Turkey).

In addition to fulfilling their managment and leadership roles, school heads can be expected to perform other tasks such as managing human/financial resources, organising professional development activities and students’ educational activities, and teaching students, as well as facilitating good relations with parents, education inspectorates and/or the government.

In most OECD countries, the tasks and responsibilities required from school heads do not vary across educational levels.



Data are from the 2020 OECD-INES-NESLI Survey on Working Time of Teachers and School Heads and refer to the school year 2019/20 (statutory information) or school year 2018/19 (actual data).


Summarized by Francisca Orrego Galarce from OECD, Education at a Glance 2021: OECD Indicators – Indicator D4. How much time do teachers and school heads spend teaching and working?

Summary of Indicator A1. To what level have adults studied?

This subchapter focuses on output indicators consisting of features exhibited in educational systems, the most important being the level of education attained thus far, disaggregating the data into below/above secondary education, male/female, native/foreign-born, and regional gaps that remain to having equal access to lifelong learning opportunities in preparation for the socio-economic demands of the labour market. The data guides how today and tomorrow’s policymakers can instil positive impact by better observing the inputs of:


‘[classroom settings], pedagogical content and delivery of the curriculum… [and] analyse the organisation of schools and education systems, including governance, autonomy and specific policies to regulate the participation of students in certain programmes.


Taking a positive approach, the report notes that, across the member states of the OECD, the average share of upper- or post-secondary (non-tertiary) degrees held by 25-34-year-olds dropped from 44% in 2010 to 40% in 2020 because of the increased rate of young adults attaining tertiary education, with 39% attaining this level in comparison to the 21% of young adults who remain with below upper-secondary education. The latter level still decreased significantly across OECD states, standing once at 27% in 2010, which can be explained by the drop in women at this level from 27% in 2010 to 20% in 2020, whilst men saw a drop from 26% to 22%. This can be explained due to the 11% rise in women attaining tertiary education from 31% to 42% in the last decade, whilst men saw a 7% rise from 28% to 35%.


Despite the positive output results the above chart illustrates, the report highlights that unequal access to educational resources remains, which may impact a state’s lack of skills demanded by the labour market, being socially engaged, and retaining higher incomes, which increases the standard of living. It has become a fact that to meet the bare requirements for employment and stable social connections, an individual requires an upper-secondary level of education. 21% of adults in OECD states left school before attaining this level of education, which is further worsened by an unequal balance of men over women and varies by state. Therefore, the average OECD rate of young men and women with below-secondary stands at 16% and 13% respectively but then sees states like Spain and Iceland where the gender gap stands at a 10% difference and similar gaps in Canada, Costa, Rica, Mexico, South Africa, and other OECD and partner states.


Another issue is the reduced rate of women entering higher forms of tertiary education compared to men. 56% of women attain a bachelor’s, 54% a master’s, and 45% a doctorate. The gap becomes more visible if we narrow down to the level of subjects women graduated in, with the majority from health and welfare, but then a minority in the S.T.E.M. fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Across OECD states, foreign-born adults, ranging from 25 to-64-years-old, make up an average of 17% of the total population who contribute to a state’s human capital and services. This can be seen with the outbreak of COVID-19, when it accounted for 24% and 16% of all medical doctors and nurses, albeit varied by group size and state. The capital, knowledge, and skillset this group brings for OECD states are invaluable; however, gaps in the sphere of education reluctantly remain. The average for below and above upper-secondary and tertiary education for native- and foreign-born adults stands at 19% and 22%, 44% and 37%, and 37% and 41%, respectively. This again varies by country, where the majority of OECD states have a large share of foreign-born adults holding below upper-secondary education but then reversed in Australia, Estonia, Hungary, Israel, Luxembourg, New Zealand, and the U.K. Whilst Canada sees 70% of foreign-born adults attaining tertiary education in comparison to 56% of natives, Italy experiences the opposite with 21% of foreign-born and 13% of natives. Regarding Italy and other states sharing similar rates, the report notes that if a state has a high rate of below upper-secondary attainment amongst natives, foreigners experience the same, which increasingly impacts their literacy and other essential skills.


The last issue focuses on the regional inequalities in educational attainment between those residing inside and outside capital cities or federal districts. In Brazil, the share of 25 to 64-year-old adults attaining below upper-secondary education is 30% in the federal district and 67% in Alagoas, with similar gaps above 30% found in Canada, Colombia, Portugal, Mexico, and Turkey. On the other hand, it was concluded that three out of four adults in Moscow attained tertiary education, and two out of three adults in both the District of Columbia and Greater London capital regions attained the same. It was thus noted that reducing the number of subregions results in a reduction of regional inequalities.


Summarized By Karl Baldacchino from [Education at a Glance 2021 Subchapter A.1]