Since the onset of the global economic crisis, EI has been following the impact on education sectors around the world. Two particular surveys that were conducted among EI’s member organisations explored the impact of the crisis and were summarised in EI’s Report on the Impact of Economic Crisis on Education, Teachers and other Education Staff (2009).
The global economic crisis developed very rapidly in late 2009, and the reforms initiated in response to the crisis began to make their actual impact in 2010. EI launched a follow-up survey in order to supplement the earlier data it had collected and to establish developments and effects on the education sector. The survey was based on updates by those (68) organisations that replied to the 2009questionnaire and on 15 focused interviews from affiliate members in the global North and South. Results were collected from 24 unions representing 23 countries.
Analysis of the data showed that in Europe, the crisis has impacted national education budgets in different ways across the continent. Central and Eastern Europe have been the hardest-hit, with an immediate impact on education. In Western Europe, the negative impacts on educational budgets are widespread, and seem to be harsher in the South than in Scandinavian countries. In North America, the cuts have occurred in some states or provinces in the USA, as well as Canada, while, in others, spending in education has simply not increased proportionate to a rising cost of living. The situation is critical in Asia and the Pacific, with the exception of Australia, where the education budget was increased as a result of the government’s schools’ infrastructure funding package.
Cuts impact on teachers
EI’s member unions in a majority of European countries report that cuts in education spending have had an impact on teachers at school level (in France, Italy and Spain, unions have denounced massive lay-offs). In Central and Eastern Europe, teachers' salaries have shrunk as part of programmes designed to reduce basic pay across public sector employees. Similar consequences have been seen in Asia and the Pacific, where the effects at school level have begun to be felt more recently. In North America, lay-offs have been reported mainly in the USA, where job losses have been largely concentrated in the area of school support personnel.
Only Italy and Japan reported gender-biased effects. In Norway, where there is no evidence that the economic crisis has been having a disproportionate impact on women teachers or girl students, the government has not been willing to provide an additional grant earmarked to deliver equal pay, despite this issue being having been high on their political agenda.
The majority of unions who responded have been involved in discussions with governments on budget cuts or stimulus packages and in defence of the public provision of education.
In Central and Eastern Europe, and Latin America, countries secured different types of loans from the IMF in 2009. The conditionalities have largely demanded the imposition of rigid fiscal measures with the objective of overcoming country debts, with inevitable consequences for education. The latest data available concerns Latvia, where IMF conditions have required further ‘consolidation’ of the budget in order to reach the level of deficit requested by the IMF.
Very little data is available on development aid. In the Netherlands, decreasing GDP figures have resulted in similar downward patterns in the budget for development aid. In Ireland, too, the budget allocation for the national overseas aid agency was cut in 2009 and 2010 by almost 30 per cent.
More information can be found at: www.ei-ie.org/handsup