Highlights from Education at a Glance 2009
branch The School Environment
Who are the teachers?
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  • The ageing of the teaching workforce is raising recruitment concerns. On average in OECD countries, almost 29% of primary teachers, 32% of lower secondary teachers and almost 36% of upper secondary teachers are 50 or older.
  • On average, nearly 80% of primary school teachers in OECD countries are women.


This spread presents a profile of the teaching workforce. Getting a better understanding of the teaching workforce means countries can anticipate teacher shortages and work to improve the teaching profession's attractiveness as a career choice.


On average across the OECD, just under 29% of primary teachers are 50 or older, but the levels are much higher in some countries: just under 53% in Germany and under 49% in Sweden and 46% in Italy. Except Sweden, these countries also have high proportions of lower secondary teachers aged over 50: 52% for Germany and 59% for Italy. In Italy, only 1% of lower secondary school teachers are aged below 30, compared with an OECD average of just over 12%.

As for the broader age distribution of teachers across the OECD area, the average percentage of teachers in the 40-49 age group is roughly the same in primary and lower and upper secondary education - between 29% and 30%. Teachers aged 39 or below tend to be more prevalent in primary education, where they account for just over 42% of teachers on average. At lower secondary level, they account for almost 39% of teachers, and at upper secondary a little more than 34%.

Looking at all levels of education, including tertiary, women represent an average of just over 65% of all teachers in the OECD area, but the percentage of women teachers tends to fall from one level of education to the next: On average across the OECD area, women account for almost 97% of teachers at pre-primary level; just under 80% at primary level; almost 67% at lower secondary level; slightly more than 53% at upper secondary level; and 39% in tertiary education.


The majority of OECD countries experienced ageing in their teaching workforce throughout the 1990s. An ageing workforce has budgetary implications, since more experienced teachers usually earn higher salaries. An increase in teacher compensation can limit the capacity of school systems to take other initiatives; and more resources might be required to update skills, knowledge and motivation among those who have been teaching for a long time. In addition, unless appropriate action is taken to train and recruit more teachers, teacher shortages are likely to increase as more teachers retire.

According to Australian research, the growing "feminisation" of teaching may be the result of a combination of factors, including low teaching salaries relative to other professions, especially for men, cultural stereotyping of teaching as "women's work," parti-cularly primary education, and men's fear that, if they enter the teaching profession, particularly as primary school teachers, they may be potentially vulnerable to accusations of child abuse. In addition, research from Finland and Ireland, two countries where the teaching profession enjoys a relatively high status, suggests that boys tend to have lower school examination results than girls, and thus comprise a smaller proportion of well-qualified applicants for teaching positions.


Data refer to the academic year 2006-07 and are based on the UOE data collection on education statistics administered by the OECD in 2008. Information on trends is taken from OECD's Teachers Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers (2005).

Going further

For additional data and notes go to Indicator D7 at www.oecd.org/edu/eag2009.

Areas covered include:

  • Age distribution of teachers by country and level of education.
  • Gender distribution of teachers by country and level of education.

Further reading from OECD

Teachers Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers (2005).

Indicator in PDF Acrobat PDF page

g4-09. Age distribution of teachers, OECD average, 2007
Age distribution of teachers, OECD average, 2007
g4-10. Gender distribution of teachers in OECD countries, 2007
Gender distribution of teachers in OECD countries, 2007

Visit the OECD web site