The UK is ranked at only 11th place out of 16 countries, after taking into account pay after tax and the cost of living in each country. The Monks Partnership, an independent consultancy based in Saffron Walden, Essex, surveyed non-Board directors working for companies with an average turnover of pounds 50m.
The survey shows that British directors in this category are roughly level with those in Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Greece, France, Portugal and Italy. In contrast, Scandinavian directors' pay is 75 per cent of UK pay levels.
Tony Vernon-Harcourt, the chairman of Monks Partnership, said: "Based on our data, the pay of a director of a pounds 50m subsidiary company is at a broadly similar level to pay in seven out of 15 other western European countries.
"Our figures do, however, only look at cash remuneration. Other elements of the remuneration package such as pension or share options, which are both complex to value, may affect the director's overall position," he said.
For instance, cash salaries tend to be a lot higher in Germany than in the UK, but share options are only just being introduced on the Continent, whereas such options have been commonplace in Britain for more than a decade.
Mr Vernon-Harcourt added that the strong pound has probably affected the figures, driving the UK's cost of living up, despite the UK having a relatively low tax regime.
"The big surprise is Spain, which has really shot up the rankings", he said. "Switzerland, Germany and Austria have always tended to be on top, ever since we started doing the league tables in 1988."
He also said that what may be broadly true about pay for directors of a pounds 50m subsidiary may not be true of a parent company. There was also considerably less disclosure about executive pay on the Continent. The only country which approached the UK's openness on this subject was Holland, Mr Vernon-Harcourt said.