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High work pressure remains a pain point in primary education

Four out of ten employees in primary education feel empty at the end of the working day. It is one of the most frequently mentioned burnout complaints among teaching staff. Work pressure is a persistent problem, despite all efforts to tackle it. More than half of the staff believe that health and safety measures are necessary to curb work stress.

That is one of the conclusions from the Labor market analysis 2021 of the Labor Market Platform for primary education. The unions, including the AOb and the employers' umbrella organization PO council, are together in this platform.

The high workload is also apparent from the answers that staff give when asked whether they are emotionally exhausted. Nearly 22 percent of workers answer that this is indeed the case. An almost as large proportion of them are tired when they get up and are confronted with work. There is therefore a need for occupational health and safety measures when it comes to work stress and work pressure. Half of the employees consider the current measures to be insufficient. A quarter would also like health and safety measures regarding the emotionally demanding nature of the work.


Despite the high work pressure, sub-workers are generally satisfied with their job: 85 percent are positive about this. They find the content of their work interesting, are satisfied with the job security and with the contract they have. The interaction with colleagues and the support they receive from them is very high. Nearly everyone, 99 percent, thinks colleagues are friendly and 96 percent thinks there is personal interest. The salary, in which the AOb want to see structural investments for a long time to make the profession more attractive is in the top three things that staff in primary education are less happy about.

'The teacher shortage is an urgent and growing problem'

The labor market analysis confirms that the teacher shortage is increasing. The platform calls this 'an urgent and growing problem'. The researchers see that schools have difficulty filling vacancies and 'do not expect any change in the short term'. In the analysis, they point to an additional shortage of 2025 FTE teachers in 1430, on top of the current situation. 'The labor market has changed at a rapid pace. Until a few years ago it was still difficult for starting teachers to get a job. That time is now over," the platform writes. Today protested the AOb also in The Hague to draw attention to the teacher shortage.

A striking conclusion from the analysis is that the share of temporary contracts has increased. In 2020, 88 percent of staff (in full-time jobs) had a permanent contract. That is less than in 2016 when 91 percent still had a permanent contract. According to the researchers, temporary contacts are more common among new educational support staff. 'The increase may be related to the sharp increase in opening in the sector. In general, new staff first start on the basis of a temporary contract.'

Feminization ring

The composition of the staff also shows that the number of educational support staff has increased sharply by 36 percent in recent years. Management positions have actually declined. All in all, the researchers note that 'the composition of the staff has changed considerably'.

The share of women in primary education remains high. Feminization is continuing, although the number of women is increasing less sharply than in previous years. In 2016, eight out of ten employees were women. In 2020 it will be 82 percent. The report concludes: 'There are currently no indications that the male-female ratio will change in the short term'.

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