The Soviet Union suffered a shortage of teachers for decades before the 1990s. Although society held the profession in high regard, teacher salaries were among the lowest of all professions, at least partly because women dominated the field at the primary and secondary levels. The emerging market economy of the 1990s improved the pay and career opportunities outside teaching for many who would have remained in education under the more rigid Soviet system; thus, the shortage was exacerbated. In the 1992-93 school year, Russian schools had about 29,000 teacher vacancies, and in the following year 25 percent of all foreign-language teaching positions were unfilled. Although low pay has damaged morale among Russian teachers, they are more disillusioned by the end of the idealistic first post-Soviet years of innovation and freedom of speech and the continued decline of their material environment. In the mid-1990s, rural schools experienced particular difficulty retaining teachers, as qualified young adults sought opportunities in larger communities.