There have been numerous discussions in some of the popular Thai teacher forums regarding so-called "fair" teacher wages. With hiring season upon us, it certainly is a topic that needs to be thoroughly researched, particularly for newbies, if one does not want to get stuck in a perceived "over-worked, under-paid" situation. I do agree with the argument that a teacher's salary (or anyone's salary for that matter) depends largely on the laws of supply and demand, but this really has little to do with what I define as "fairness". The question of fairness depends simply on whether two items being traded are perceived to have value of reasonable equivalence. In other words, are the salaries being currently offered (which are determined largely by supply and demand) a fair trade for the services expected to be provided by the teachers? The problem we face in answering this lies in the fact that the concept of fairness, with personal perception at its foundation, is innately subjective.
Scanning through the job postings, it is apparent that most non-international Thai schools believe they can fill positions by offering between 30,000 to 45,000 Baht/mo for native-English-speaking teachers. Would a teacher perceive this amount to be of reasonable equivalence to the services that he or she is expected to provide? Never mind if this amount is enough to live in Bangkok, that’s not the question. Never mind if these salary levels are determined by simple market forces, that’s irrelevant. Fairness boils down to two simple questions: 1) how much do you value your time and effort? And, 2) is this amount reasonably close to the how much the school values your time and effort?
So, where does that leave us? Are the current salaries being offered "fair"? Personally, I don’t believe they are for me. Then again, I don’t work at any of these schools, so it’d be hard for me to truly assess the fairness of the situation. At the school I am currently working, I teach four different subjects (2 sciences and 2 maths) with 24 class periods per week. Combined with prep time, I estimate my actual work load to be about 35 hours per week, or about 140 hours per month. At 30,000 to 45,000 B/mo, that would be about 200 to 300 B/hr, or US$5 to US$8 per hour. I could back go home, work at McDonald’s and get paid more than that. Then again, if I were to go back home to work, I wouldn’t be in Bangkok, so what good would that do? Solution – I simply wouldn’t accept the "offer". I value my time a bit more than that. But, hey, that’s just me.