Joe McHugh is meeting Irish teachers in the UAE
Education Minister Joe McHugh has said he is not in the United Arab Emirates to poach teachers.
The Donegal TD is in UAE on a two-day visit that has been described as a fact-finding mission. He said he only wants to make it easier for teachers who wish to return.
Two town hall meetings are planned with Irish teachers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to gather their views on teaching abroad.
There are more than 2,000 Irish people working in education in the UAE.
A survey by the Irish embassy in the UAE of 1,000 Irish teachers found salary, pay inequality, housing and lack of permanent positions cited as some of the main reasons for teachers leaving Ireland. Of those surveyed, 86% said that the quality of life is better in the Gulf than in Ireland.
Speaking on Wednesday he said the Irish government is making a major push to address concerns over pay inequality and a lack of permanent positions.
“We have shortages and we have supply issues. But it is not about poaching teachers,” he told The National.
He said the impact and sacrifice made by Irish teachers in the UAE had often gone unrecognised. But this was going to change.
“They are here working really hard, working long hours [so] it is about how we respond to their needs and at the moment there is a vacuum.”
“There are incentives in the UAE such as remuneration - teachers aren’t paying tax on salaries,” he said. “The cost of living in Dublin [Ireland’s capital] is also a factor.”
“There is an inequality of pay issue,” he said. “I’ve got the commitment from the government that we are going to address that. It is a massive issue. It is unfinished business,” he said.
“That won’t happen today … because it involves pay talks. But the government will address that issue.”