Andreas Schleicher, head of education at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, has cautioned that the OECD's analysis of working conditions in 34 countries suggests many developed nations are finding it increasingly hard to attract graduates into teaching because of competition from other sectors.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the Teaching and Learning International Survey report next week, Mr Schleicher said: "The data suggests that the status of the teaching profession in many countries is on the decline. Most countries are having a hard time keeping teaching attractive."
Mr Schleicher argued that enticing new recruits was not just about salary but also whether staff had autonomy over their work and a range of career options. Speaking at a conference at the University of Roehampton in London last week, he said that was why there were nine applications for every teaching post in Finland, where the job is still seen as prestigious despite paying less than in the UK.
His comments come as concerns about teacher recruitment grow in England. Jon Coles, chief executive of United Learning, one of the country's biggest academy chains, said his schools were struggling to recruit trainee teachers, especially in maths and science.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers' union, agreed. "At branch meetings from Durham to Surrey, people are raising recruitment problems - it is starting to come back on to the agenda," he said. "I think that pay does matter. It is one of the ways that people external to a profession gauge its status. But if people wanted to become millionaires they wouldn't become teachers. What teachers do want is to be professionals and be able to make decisions about their work."
Last year Teach First, which places high-flying graduates in schools in low-income communities, became the largest graduate recruiter in the UK. But about 40 per cent of all new recruits to teaching in England leave the profession within five years.
David Weston, chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust, said the UK may be in a better position than elsewhere.
"There is quite a lot of evidence to show that teachers are likely to remain in the profession if they get a level of autonomy and feel they have the opportunity to grow in their career," he said. "In the UK, schools are getting more autonomy but there is a question mark over whether that is filtering down to teachers. Things have got better but there is much further to go."