The best-paid public school teachers in the world are in Europe, America, and the Middle East. The Arab Gulf States and the Far East are the best destinations for English (ESL) teachers. Teaching salaries, however, vary much depending on qualifications and experience.
The Ten Best-paying Countries
According to the World Bank, the ten countries where teachers earn the best salaries are:
Tiny Luxembourg, with a population of only 645,000 and just over 150 public schools, famously has the best-paid teachers in the world.
To compare teacher salaries in various parts of the world is not easy and numbers differ between official sources.
The following data about which countries pay the best teacher salaries. These numbers are average salaries for secondary teachers with 15 years of experience at the top of their scale and include all the usual benefits.
According to the World Bank, the ten best-paying countries (in USD) are:
- Luxembourg ($139,335.5)
- Switzerland ($115,977.3)
- Germany ($103,715.3)
- The Netherlands ($90,639.3)
- Austria ($90,108.5)
- South Korea ($89,356.3)
- United States ($73,199.6)
- Portugal ($73,028.3)
- Ireland ($72,296.9)
- Canada ($70,697.5)
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2020 published the following data:
- Luxembourg ($101,360)
- Germany ($80,407)
- Canada ($71,664)
- Netherlands ($71,024)
- Australia ($65,658)
- Ireland ($62,313)
- USA ($62,102)
- Denmark ($60,185)
- South Korea ($59,103)
- Austria ($55,142)
Which ESL teachers are the best paid?
The great determining factor when teaching abroad, mostly as ESL (English Second Language) teachers, is the savings factor. In general, ESL teachers earn good wages working abroad, earning between $2,000 to over $6,000 per month in the top-paying countries. With accommodation usually provided, most teachers can save at least a third to half their monthly salaries, depending on the cost of living in the country and, of course, the teacher’s lifestyle.
Opinions vary, but it is widely accepted that the following are the best countries for ESL teachers.
The Arab Gulf States:
Teaching positions in the Arab Gulf States – the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain are highly sought after. Truly English-native speakers with a clear accent, good qualifications, and broad teaching experience are what the recruiters want.
United Arab Emirates
Salaries for ESL teachers in the UAE, especially in Abu Dhabi and Dubai usually range between $3,500 and $5,500, while the cost of living is between $1,200 to $1,900 per month.
Next to Abu Dhabi, Doha rates as the world’s 2nd safest city and is very popular, with the cost of living being mid-range at around $1,000 per month. ESL teachers on average earn $2,400 to $4,500 per month.
With the Kuwait Dinar being the world’s most valuable currency, ESL teachers in Kuwait City on average earn $2,600-$4,000 with the official cost of living for an individual being $750 – $1,500 per month.
The cost of living, at around $800 per single person in Muscat is estimated to be 31% cheaper than Dubai. ESL teachers earn on average $2,000 to $3,500 per month.
The Far East:
Japan was the first Asian country to introduce American ESL teachers to improve the English proficiency of the Japanese, a policy that seems to have failed in a manner, because after almost forty years of ESL teaching, Japan still ranks low in its English proficiency score. In 2021 Japan ranked 78th of 112 countries tested and placed 13th of 24 Asian countries.
Japan’s ESL teaching industry prefers American teachers, and they typically earn between 200,000 and 600,000 Yen ($1,700 to $5,000) per month.
South Korea has been one of the most popular ESL destinations for the past 20 years. Salaries vary between $1,700 to $2,650 per month with the cost of living being $900 to $1000 per month for a single person when accommodation is provided.
Densely populated Taiwan lives under the threat of China, but besides that pays ESL salaries of $2,000 to $3,000 per month and has a cost of living similar to South Korea of about $1,000 per month.
China’s policy regarding English changed at the end of the century when they began to view English as “a bridge to the future.” This opened the giant Chinese market and the past ten years saw ESL teaching flourishing. ESL salaries still lag a bit, with the averages ranging from $1,400 to $2,200. The cost of living in popular cities is around $1,000 per month. The changes in online teaching announced in July 2022 will favor ESL teachers living and working in China.
The past ten years saw Vietnam opening up as a popular destination for ESL teachers. The salaries are lower, ranging between $1,200 to $2,100 per month, but the cost of living is lower at around $700 per month.
Chinese policy restricts online ESL teaching
The Chinese Ministry of Education in July 2021 banned the K-12 after-school tutoring industry and placed further restrictions on the online ESL industry to reduce families’ education costs, alleviate competitive pressure on students, to ensure equal access to education, but it is also to limit the exposure of students to foreign, liberal culture.
The regulations include the following:
No online classes after 9 pm Beijing time. Classes may not exceed 30 minutes.No online classes during weekends, holidays and school breaks. A ban on hiring offshore online educators and a clamp-down on unregistered tutoring companies.
ESL teachers at the mercy of regulators
A word of caution regarding teaching ESL is that ex-pat teachers are always at the mercy of governments changing rules on short notice. In 2021 Oman – as one of the top teaching destinations for ESL – gave notice that the contracts of 2,100 ex-pat teachers will not be renewed. They are to be replaced by local teachers as part of Oman’s indigenization policy.