BAKU -- Teachers and doctors in Azerbaijan say a recent 10 percent increase in their salaries by the government is not enough to keep up with the cost of living, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.
President Ilham Aliyev issued decrees on December 5-6 raising the wages of Azerbaijan's teachers and doctors by 10 percent retroactive to December 1.
The average monthly salary for doctors was 213 manats ($273); after the government-decreed increase, it is now 234 manats ($300).
The average monthly salary for teachers was 245 manats ($314) and will be 269 manats ($344) starting this month.
But the fare to ride the subway and prices for other public transportation and some communal services were also increased on December 1 by at least 30 percent, leaving many state workers saying their pay raises were incompatible with the increase in the cost of living.
Nabatali Palangov, a Russian-language teacher in a Baku school, told RFE/RL on December 6 that the state is "stimulating corruption" by giving such a small wage increase to state workers.
"Such a rise in salaries is making a mockery of teachers," he said. "I have only six hours of classes a week, which means I get only 73 manats. After the latest raise, my salary will be 80 manats ($100) [per month]."
Many teachers in Azerbaijan have to privately tutor students after their regular classes for extra money in order to make ends meet.
But Hadi Rajabli, chairman of parliament's Social Policy Committee, told journalists on December 6 that salaries are increased "in accordance with existing realities and perspectives."
He said salaries are raised every year and that state workers get a 50 percent increase in their salaries every five years.
"Naturally, market prices are also rising," he said. "But the [cost of living] increase is lower than the rise in salaries. Salaries have risen by 10 percent; inflation is 5.8 percent [this year]. Taking this regular pay raise [for state workers] into account, the process in the end is perfect."
Economist Rovshan Agayev told RFE/RL that the problem is in the very low level of the workers' salaries, not in the percentage of the wage increase that they receive.
"If a teacher received 500-600 manats per month in salary, then a 10 percent raise would be 60-70 manats. The core of the problem is that no worthy salary base has [ever] been formed in the education sector," he said.
He notes that the salaries of law-enforcement employees are several times higher than that of teachers and doctors and that these salaries are also increased by the government at least once per year.
The government says the minimum amount of money needed to stay above the poverty line in Azerbaijan is 100-110 manats. But economists say the minimum needed is at least 170-180 manats.
Read more in Azeri here and here