# Appallingly low salaries

Recently the EL Gazette had one of its reporters call schools in the UK and enquire about salaries and hourly rates for EFL teachers. The results of this fine bit of investigative reporting were shocking: most schools, the reporter found, were paying the minimum or below, and most teachers were completely unaware of this fact. With this in mind I called a couple of schools here in Taipei and asked them how much my starting pay would be. Most told me that they’d start me at \$NT550 and perhaps bump me up an extra \$NT20 or \$NT30 if I performed well. I was incredulous. How on earth, in these inflationary times, can someone live on \$NT550 an hour? The mind boggles. I enquired further, asking them how much I’d get if I was to stay around, work hard, and become a good and trustworthy teacher, and they told me that the pay would reach a ceiling of \$700 an hour and that’s where it’d stop. Now I don’t work in a Bushiban here, thank god, but I do work in a university. You might think that I’d be on a huge salary. Wrong! My regular monthly salary is \$NT64,000 and the hourly rate being offered for summer courses is a mere \$NT615 per hour.(I refuse to teach at the university over the summer.) How I wish I could earn a quality salary and not have to supplement my f/t work with p/t gigs, but \$NT64,000 is simply not enough.(Luckily I don’t have a mortgage in the UK, otherwise I’d really be up Shit Creek without a paddle. Just a few months ago one pound equalled \$NT70!) Anyway, the EL Gazette gives a formula for calculating your minimum wage. Here it is, quoted verbatim from their article: [b]Employers often pay teachers according to contact time worked, although, what really counts in law is the total time spent at the employer’s disposal. Here we present a hypothetical example showing how to compute the minimum salary payable based on the time spent at the employer’s disposal. For this illustration we have used the minimum wage applicable in Ireland, currently EUROs 8.65 per hour. We have also assumed a 5-day week and a 4-week month, with six fifty-minute lessons a day, five ten-minute breaks between lessons daily, an hour of lunch supervision daily, a weekly hour-long teacher’s meeting, two hours’ training a month and a contract that requires preparation without specifying a time:

Type of work - Hours committed

Teaching contact time - 6 x 50 min/day = 25hr/week
Breaks between lessons - 50 min day = 4hr 10min/week
Lunch supervision - 1 hr day = 5 hr/week
Preparation - 25 x 20mins = 8 hrs 20mins/week
Teacher’s meeting - 1 hr/week
Training - 2hr/month = 30min/week
TOTAL = 44hr/week Time at employer’s disposal

Minimum salary payable - 44 x E8.65 = E380.60/week

Minimum legal wage rate if paid by contact time - E380.60/25 = E15.22/hour

*At current exchange rates 1 Euro = \$NT47.48154

Thus E15.22 = NT\$722.67/hour[/b]

I’ve been working here for 7 years and I finally make above NT600 an hour:) If you complain too much they just take a fresh face that just stepped off the plane. Loadssss of competition around:)

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Yeah, that’s how it works here, battery. Just outta interest, why do you stay? Are you managing OK financially? Are you here for other things besides the money? If you’ve been working for a school for 7 years, they must like you and you them, or do you stay because if you leave you’d have to start at the bottom again? Incidentally, if you’re only on \$NT600 an hour now, what did they start you on?

no no no…I’ve worked at 3 schools…finally found a school that pays over NT600 2 years ago…

I still think I make a lot of money in comparison to the freedom I have at my school, and the hours that I work…I often find myself sitting on the floor reading my students a book, or watching them write a book report and go…am I really being paid for this? It’s fun!

and in comparison to what I will make back home, the non-violence, wonderful (and cheap) public transport…what I pay for a beautiful home (an eight of my monthly pay, where back home it will propably be a fifth or quarter)

downfall…in the long run there is nothing for you here. No pension, no medical schemes, no way to move up in the company where you work, no rights, no family…etc.

but in comparison to other places in the world (realistically) it seems easy to survive here.

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You have to remember that 550 is still pretty high for Taiwanese. If my old lady was on that (and she has what some people would think is a pretty glamorous job) she would be very happy, yet she, and many of her friends, manage to “survive” on a lot less (if you work out the hourly rate).

I’m an adult teacher and I get roughly 800 an hour to teach business English or IELTS. This sounds great until you factor in the seasonal aspect of it. Right now, because we are waiting for summer, there are very few classes and my weekly average would come in at a lot less than 550 an hour. So I have to do other stuff to supplement my income. So I’d say 550 and block hours would not be so bad, as you can plan what money you have at the end of the month. My problem is I could never go back to teaching kids. At the end of my 2 years of teaching kids here I just got burned out with dealing with f*ckwit parents, bizarre laoban ideas and so on. I’m much happier with my present arrangement (even though it sucks at the moment with so few classes).

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You both mention the word SURVIVAL, which is a key word when salaries are so low. Wouldn’t it be nice to earn more so that you could purchase all those little luxuries and creature comforts that you’ve always dreamt of owning?

Supply and demand. The supply of teachers is bigger than demand. If the supply fell, wages would go up.

Note taht you are seen as 100% replacable by your boss, that diminishes your value.

That said, for a recent graduate, salaries here in PPP compares with what you would be getting in say Europe.

I believe I used the word survive in quotation marks, thus meaning I don’t agree with the idea. Anyway, not everybody wants or needs the latest luxuries. I know people that bought a MacBook Air because they could. That just seems ridiculous to me. If there is one thing I hate is boys with toys…

Boys have different toys. I don’t mean that you have to buy a shiny-new bmw or use the latest Nokia phone, what I mean is not having to decide if you should buy that \$NT500 CD this week or take that trip to Bali next week. If you work hard, then you shouldn’t have to worry about such things, but a lot of teachers here do . . . and that causes much consternation.

It’s not just about survival; If you clear just short of \$100000 NT/ month, it amounts to just over 1600GBP/month. However, living here is cheap, and although most of us are making less than we would be in our original countries, we’re saving more.

There’s a reason people stay here for the long haul, and I promise you it has nothing to do with the air quality!

First of all, nemesis, are you an English teacher? If you are, you must be working like a dog to clear \$NT100,000. Most teachers here make half that and they are being overworked and perhaps have no additional time to top up their salaries. I admit that you can make that money if you have the qualifications, the time management skills, the right attitude, and a canny ability to juggle blocks of hours at different schools, but teachers earning over \$NT100,000 are definitely the exception to the rule. If you’re able to do that, then good on ya.

I used to make between 80-90,000 a month, but I was teaching 30 hours / week at a buxiban that paid me well and was doing IELTS on the side. Looking back now, that was a lot of work for that kind of pay. You are still talking about \$30,000 a year with no benefits besides medical insurance. And most teachers I knew were making closer on \$20,000, some even less.

That is exactly what gave me the impetus to move on and get a Masters. I kept thinking about where I would be in years to come without one. What would I be doing, still teaching at a cram school in my older years? Still teaching Taiwanese kids? And what happens down the line when the economy in Taiwan continues to decline, and the cost of living continues to rise with no change in wages? Or when the buxiban scene changes for the worse? I kept thinking about these things, and frankly it was depressing. So I put my head down, saved as much as possible and then left to do my Masters. It was the best thing I ever did…so many more doors have opened, and now my salary in the Gulf is more than double what I was making in Taiwan in addition to loads and loads of paid holiday time, free housing, flights home every year, etc. etc.

So I hate to sound like a Mother, but I seriously recommend getting quals of you have issues with your working situation in Taiwan and don’t know where to go from there. Lots of people do it; I have met loads in the UAE, especially people who were teaching in Korea and did their Masters by distance while living there.

Well done, Indiana, for having the discipline to save up, do an MA, and move onto better things. However, many English teachers here are unable to do what you did for the following reasons: 1. They don’t earn enough to save; 2. they don’t have the time to pursue further study because of the need to work; 3. living in Taiwan, especially Taipei, can be a very lonely and stressful experience, and what money you do have left over is used for recreational purposes in order to escape the harsh reality; and 4. unlike you, Indiana, many are not disciplined and wile away the hours doing nothing in particular. Of course, in an ideal world, EFL teachers here would have the time and money and the discipline to engage in further study, acquire better qualifications, and hence become more competitive, but, alas . . .

Before I became a school owner, I consistently cleared 100K+ every month, teaching kids. I did that for 8 years straight before I started climbing the bushiban ladder. I never worked mornings or weekends either. I did well enough that I was able to begin opening my own schools. Now my teachers all clear 75K+ per month and still have plenty of time for privates or whatever they want to do when they aren’t on my clock.

The money is out there for those who know how to get it.

Could I ask you nemesis, Indiana, and dangerousapple to tell us here at Forumosa how it was possible for you to make over a \$NT100,000 a month. I’m not asking you to divulge names of schools, just supply the hours worked, the hourly rates, how many schools you commuted between, and how you got to those schools on time. I’m assuming that you would have to work at a variety of schools because I haven’t heard of a school here in Taiwan paying over \$NT100,000 as a basic salary. The best paid jobs, as far as I know, are in areas where good teachers are hard to come by, such as IELTs or SAT, but these gigs aren’t full-time and certainly don’t pay \$100,000 a month.

I agree with the points you made here. But if doing a Masters is out of reach, I think that making a start by doing a CELTA / TEFL cert of some sort or a TEFL diploma by distance should be feasible. With a TEFL cert (and a Bachelors), for example, a person can become an IELTS Examiner, which opens even more doors. Courses can also be taken by distance a little at a time, which can be affordable for teachers who have trouble saving (this also gives one something do while wiling away the hours!). At least this gives a teacher more to move on with when they plan on leaving Taiwan.

The British Council, for example, hires people with a Bachelors, TEFL / CELTA and a few years of experience in most of their centers around the world. A CELTA or TEFL cert usually only takes a month to do and will make a person far more employable in other countries.

I didn’t clear 100,000 a month at my buxiban except for during summer camp months (July) when I was teaching a ridiculous number of hours. I was making between 80-90,000 / month on average. I worked for 30 hours a week at one school (2-9) at 720/hour (by the time I left…I started out at 600/hour and got periodic raises).

With additional examining work I did, sometimes I did hit over 100,000, when it was a busy examining month.

Just for your information, an IELTs examiner at the British Council will earn around \$NT315 per person/per speaking test. I think that the rate for grading writing tests is around \$NT215 per person/per paper.(Examiners don’t grade listening or reading tests.) Over an afternoon, an examiner will test no more than 12 candidates, and is not paid if candidates don’t show. The money earnt at the Council is taxed at the appropriate rate. While this sounds OK on the surface, the reality is quite different for the following reasons: 1. You need to get to the Council and that costs; 2. Your money is taxed; 3. Some candidates will cancel; and 4. you are expected to attend periodic training sessions that take up time and travel expense. Working at the Council isn’t going to make you a rich man/woman and grading the writing is a real drag. Nevertheless, if you are interested in becoming an examiner, you’ll need to be a native speaker of English, hold a CELTA, and have 2 years of classroom experience. Incidentally, Taiwanese candidates are asked to pay around \$NT5,100 to do the test.

Every bushiban I ever worked at gave me block hours Mon-Fri afternoons and evenings, at one location. I never did any driving except for privates which I usually did for one or two hours after my bushiban day. For me it was ~30 hours per week at the bushiban @~650 per hour, and 6+ hours per week teaching privates @NT\$800-1000 per hour. I tried being a cambridge examiner for a little while, but hated working on weekends. I also taught the odd corporate class from time to time, but it really wasn’t for me. I am a certified elementary school teacher, and much prefer teaching kids.

Make no mistake, I busted my ass for my wage, but I never allowed work to dominate my life here.

It seems like most of these horror stories come from central or northern Taiwan…? I’ve been in Kaohsiung City the entire time, and I never ever suffered for work. Every serious teacher I know here has the same kind of contract I used to have. The only people I know who are scrambling for jobs are the illegals and the burger flippers that came here for “easy money”. Is it really that bad in Taipei?

I second (or third) those saying go for more qualifications. I make over 100,000 now, and work less than 20 hour a week for it. Have a great uni job at a private uni that, after tacking on a title with some administrative duties, pays about 15k more than the average starting pay at a uni. On top of that, our school was one of the ones to be granted a “upgrade and internationalize” fund, and with some of this \$ they bestowed upon me the title of “visiting scholar” -for which they threw on another 20k per month (for 2 years). I’m now at 95,000 for 10 teaching hours per week.

I also head up a Writing Center, which I started this semester, for which they pay me the standard 575 per hour (4 hours per week), and I also host “conversation club” and “movie” night, for which I’m paid. All in all, it’s well over 100,000 per month.

I think these positions must be pretty hard to come by. I sent out 36 CVs when I graduated with my MA from the States last year, and only 3 or 4 universities replied seeking an interview, and only 1 for a full-time, full-benefits position, which I landed.

I have another friend who did his MA here in Taiwan, and he is required to teach 16 hours per week and gets paid 52,000 per month.

I also teach a couple of privates on Saturdays. So my situation is pretty lucrative, at least for Taiwan.

My feelings a couple of years echoed what another poster wrote on this thread about working in a buxiban and just wondering where this was all headed down the road. Going back and doing that MA was the smartest thing I’ve ever done in my life.