Saturday 1 October 2016

'Nothing's going to the tax man and our accommodation is paid' - Why these Irish teachers are heading to Dubai

Tax-free incentives in the United Arab Emirates are proving very lucrative

David Kearns

Published 09/07/2016 | 02:30

Heading to the United Arab Emirates: Katie Fortune Photo: Doug O'Connor
Heading to the United Arab Emirates: Katie Fortune Photo: Doug O'Connor

With salaries and job opportunities falling here, hundreds of qualified teachers are foregoing Irish classrooms to take up attractive tax-free opportunities in schools across the Middle East.

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Next month some 50 Irish teachers will be flying out to take up positions with primary and post-primary schools in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), including Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Nicola Edwards, Emer O'Brien and Áine Ní Mainín Photo: Doug O'Connor
Nicola Edwards, Emer O'Brien and Áine Ní Mainín Photo: Doug O'Connor

A sense of adventure is the attraction for some, with others viewing the opportunity as a chance to build up savings towards a house back home - something many said they felt was nigh impossible to do on current Irish teachers' salaries.

"As a couple, my husband and myself have been working 11 years as teachers and in all that time we've barely been able to save towards our future," said Myra Reddington (33), who is heading to Dubai from Mayo in five weeks.

"We're actually going to be paid a little bit less than what we're earning here but with nothing going to the tax man and our accommodation paid for, between us we'll be coming out almost €2,000 ahead each month."

Seeking adventure, newly qualified teacher Katie Fortune (23) said she could not wait to "get out of damp Ireland and get some sun in Abu Dhabi".

Julianne Murphy Photo: Doug O'Connor
Julianne Murphy Photo: Doug O'Connor

Less than a month after completing her Masters, the Wexford native is heading to the UAE capital with three of her friends. "This is a great way of seeing a different part of the world and save money at the same time," she said.

Among the two dozen or so teachers that met up this week in Dublin ahead of the move to Abu Dhabi, Donegal-based Julianne Murphy (27) offered a different perspective on why she was leaving Ireland.

"When I qualified four years ago, I got a school near to where I grew up. At first I was delighted, especially when I saw where many of my friends ended up," she said. "But after awhile I grew really jealous of them because they got to experience somewhere new. I'm at the stage now where I don't even go out in Donegal because I'm so fed up.

"That's why I decided to go abroad, to just get a taste of something new."

Billy Waters, Vida Novak and Sharon Loscher Photo: Doug O'Connor
Billy Waters, Vida Novak and Sharon Loscher Photo: Doug O'Connor

At a time of rising enrolments in both primary and second-level schools, driving up demand for staff, it may seem strange that teachers are looking abroad.

Myra said, however, that she was earning less now than she was seven years ago following a one-year career break in Australia.

"Here you can have two people doing the same job in a school on very different pay scales. Over there, that isn't the case - the school I'm heading to, for example, very much goes out of its way to reward staff who perform well, offering incentives and bonuses."

"For us, this is an investment in our future," said Ronan Murphy (35), who is leaving Cavan to head to Abu Dhabi alongside his wife and three children.

Graham Carroll Photo: Doug O'Connor
Graham Carroll Photo: Doug O'Connor

"We're excited to take up a new challenge after 14 years teaching in Ireland. Financially it's a sound investment, and it's a chance for our children to experience a different culture."

Peter Mullan of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) said he was not surprised that Ireland would be losing nearly 50 teachers in a month's time.

"I'd say that's just the tip of the iceberg; remember that's just with the one agency (Teach and Explore), there's several more out there too offering to help Irish teachers to find work abroad.

"Due to the pay cuts imposed on new teachers, and the fact that, particularly at second level, there are a lot of people who can't get full hours here, it's no surprise that we've hundreds of teachers looking to take advantage of more attractive pay packages in other countries."

Mr Mullan said that there was an ongoing frustration among teachers at the difficulty in getting a permanent job, with up to half of teachers under 35 employed working only a handful of hours every week.

Myra Reddington with her husband and fellow teacher Kieran McDonagh Photo: Doug O'Connor
Myra Reddington with her husband and fellow teacher Kieran McDonagh Photo: Doug O'Connor

Starting salaries can vary but on average many newly qualified teachers in permanent positions in Ireland will earn less than €29,000 annually.

Mr Mullan pointed out that teachers working in Ireland often faced high rents and large transport costs.

Áine Casey, Aoife McGahern, Niall Behan and Clodagh Bergin Photo: Doug O'Connor
Áine Casey, Aoife McGahern, Niall Behan and Clodagh Bergin Photo: Doug O'Connor

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