Top CEOs got a 9% real pay raise in 2022 while workers worldwide took a 3% pay cut

May 1, 2023
  • Workers on average worked six days “for free” last year because their wages lagged behind inflation — while real pay for top executives jumped nine per cent (16 per cent if not adjusted for inflation).
  • Canadian workers’ total losses were almost $39 billion CAD and worked over seven days unpaid because wages did not keep up with inflation.
  • Women and girls are putting in 4.6 trillion hours of unpaid care work every year.
  • Shareholders saw record pay-outs of $1.56 trillion in 2022, a 10 per cent real-term increase compared to 2021.

The top-paid CEOs across four countries (India, the UK, US and South Africa) enjoyed a nine per cent pay hike in 2022, while workers’ wages fell 3.19 per cent during the same period, reveals new analysis from Oxfam on International Workers’ Day.

In Canada, workers took a 3.4 per cent pay cut in 2022, losing on average C$1,992 and working 7.2 days effectively unpaid because wages did not keep up with inflation. The total losses for workers in Canada was almost C$39 billion.

The figures, adjusted for inflation, are based on the latest data from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and government statistics agencies.

One billion workers in 50 countries took an average pay cut of $685 in 2022, a collective loss of $746 billion in real wages, compared to if wages had kept up with inflation.

Women and girls are putting in at least 380 billion hours of unpaid care work every month. Women workers often have to work reduced paid hours or drop out of the workforce altogether because of their unpaid care workload. They also continue to face gender-based discrimination, harassment, and less pay for work of equal value as men.

“While corporate bosses are telling us we need to keep wages down, they’re giving themselves and their shareholders massive pay-outs. Most people are working longer for less and can’t keep up with the cost of living,” said Ian Thomson, manager of policy at Oxfam Canada.

“The only rise workers have seen is that of unpaid care work, with women shouldering the responsibility,” Thomson said. “This incredibly hard and valuable work is done for free at home and in the community.”

Big business executives, however, are thriving. Oxfam’s analysis of corporate and survey data for 2022 found that:

  • 100 of the highest-paid CEOs in the US made $24 million on average in 2022, a real-term pay hike of 15 per cent from the previous year. The average worker in the US would have to work for 413 years to match what a top-paid CEO makes in 12 months. 50 per cent of women of colour in the US make less than $15 an hour.
  • The UK’s 100 best-paid CEOs were paid $5 million on average in 2022, and received a 4.4 per cent real-term pay hike. They earn 140 times more than the average worker in the UK.
  • 150 of the top-paid executives in India received $1 million on average last year, a real-term pay rise of two per cent since 2021. A single Indian executive makes in just four hours more than an average worker earns in a year.
  • Top-paid chief executives in South Africa made $800,000 on average in 2022, 43 times the pay of the average worker. Their real-term pay rose 13 per cent last year.

Shareholder dividends meanwhile hit a record $1.56 trillion in 2022, a 10 per cent real-term growth compared to 2021. US corporations paid out $574 billon to their shareholders, more than double US workers’ total real wage pay cut. Brazilian shareholders received $34 billion, just shy of what the country’s workers lost in real wages.

Exorbitant shareholder pay-outs benefit the richest in society, exacerbating already high levels of inequality. The wealthiest 1 per cent of South Africans own more than 95 per cent of bonds and corporate shares, while the richest 0.01 per cent own 62.7 per cent. In the US, the richest one per cent hold 54 per cent of shares held by US households.

However, taxes on income from these dividends and shares, which help to fund public services like healthcare and education, have continued to fall, down from 61 per cent in 1980 to just 42 per cent today.

“Workers are tired of being treated like sacrificial lambs every time a crisis hits. Neoliberal logic blames inflation on everyone except profiteering corporations. Governments should stop relying only on interest rate hikes and austerity that we know hurts ordinary people, particularly those living in poverty. Instead, they should introduce top rates of tax of at least 75 per cent on corporate bosses to discourage sky-high executive pay, and windfall taxes on excessive corporate profits. They must also ensure minimum wages keep up with inflation, and that everyone has the right to unionize, strike and bargain collectively,” said Thomson.

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Notes to the editor:
For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Paula Baker
Media Relations
(613) 240-3047

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