The economy might be flirting with another downturn, but take heart: the nation’s CEOs are doing alright. Recent research shows the pay gap between executives and their subordinates soared just before the pandemic. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce was paid 126 times the average Australian worker’s salary in 2019, while Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci netted 143 times the average.
The pandemic initially clipped many CEOs’ wings. ASX100 company bosses’ cash pay fell by over a quarter – the biggest hit on record – to an average $2 million. But when options and shares are included, that slide looks far more modest – just 3.6%, to an average $4 million.
There isn’t much solid data for 2021 yet, but several signs point to a return to pre-pandemic highs. Financial markets are roaring again, giving the half of CEOs’ bounty made up of stocks and options a healthy boost. Prominent companies are again shelling out lavish top-end bonuses – take PwC who, fresh from helping the government botch our vaccine rollout, gifted its partners an 18% raise. And CEOs elsewhere in the world are again raking it in; in the US the virus barely halted it.