Foreign academics at state universities in Ethiopia are responding with frustration and anger to a decision by the Ethiopian government to reduce their pay. According to the decision, which was issued without prior notice to state universities on December 2017, 35.5% salary cut and a general tax of 35 percent will be applied to their annual income, which means a salary cut of 40 percent.
The decision is driven by the foreign currency shortages in the country. There are around 2,000 Indian faculty members and scores of Europeans in Ethiopian colleges and universities, according to the latest official figures. “Most of the Europeans have left but the Indians and a number of Filipinos who remain here very displeased with the decision,” one of the Indian professors teaching at the Addis Ababa University’s Institute of Foreign Language Studies told Ethiopia Observer, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The universities and colleges have implemented the decision since December, and deducted our salaries ever since,” he said. He said that this is contrary to the law, which exempts professors’ base salaries from taxes and reducing a salary mid-year is a violation of the contract. The professor said he is aware that the Filipino faculty in Axum University have returned to their countries and some Indians in other universities and colleges are either seeking jobs with international non-governmental organisations or considering returning home.
An official of the Ethiopian Ministry of Education contacted by the Ethiopia Observer admitted that a number of German nationals teaching at the Architecture Department at Addis Ababa University have left, but he said it had nothing to do with salary cut, rather it was because the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) aid fund dried out. Commenting on the case of Indians, he remained vague, only saying that the Ethiopian government cares about the interests and rights of faculty members.
The country’s higher education infrastructure has mushroomed in the last two decades but suffer due to funding cuts, unqualified lecturers, forcing the institutions to turn to hiring foreign academics. While the government needed to save money, cancelling wages of university lecturers would affect the quality of education, according to observers.