The top-paid CEOs across four countries enjoyed a nine percent pay hike in 2022, while workers’ wages fell 3.19 percent during the same period, said a latest Oxfam analysis on International Workers’ Day on May 1.
The Oxfam made the analysis based on the latest data from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and government statistics agencies. In the analysis, Oxfam said that one billion workers in 50 countries took an average pay cut of 685 dollars in 2022, a collective loss of 746 billion dollar in real wages, compared to if wages had kept up with inflation.
The analysis said that 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 payouts. Most people are working longer for less and cannot keep up with the cost of living. Years of austerity and attacks on trade unions have widened the gap between the richest and the rest of us. On a day meant to celebrate the working class, this glaring inequality is both shocking and sadly unsurprising,” said Oxfam International’s interim Executive Director Amitabh Behar.
“The only rise workers have seen is that of unpaid care work, with women shouldering the responsibility,” Behar said. “This incredibly hard and valuable work is done for free at home and in the community.”
Brazilian workers’ real wages fell 6.9 percent (equivalent to 15 unpaid working days) last year, while in the US and the UK, the average worker took a real-terms pay cut of 3.2 percent (6.7 unpaid working days) and 2.5 percent (5 unpaid working days), respectively.
The Oxfam analysis pointed out that chiefs of big business houses thrived with 150 of the top-paid executives in India receiving one million dollars on average last year, a real-term pay rise of two percent since 2021. A single Indian executive makes in just four hours more than an average worker earns in a year.
It mentioned that 100 of the highest-paid CEOs in the US made 24 million dollar on average in 2022. This was a real-term pay hike of 15 percent 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. It said that 50 percent of women of colour in the US make less than 15 dollar an hour.
The UK’s 100 best-paid CEOs were paid $5 million on average in 2022, and received a 4.4 percent real-term pay hike. They earn 140 times more than the average worker in the UK.
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 percent last year.
Shareholder dividends meanwhile hit a record $1.56 trillion in 2022, a 10 percent 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 payouts benefit the richest in society, exacerbating already high levels of inequality. The wealthiest 1 percent of South Africans own more than 95 percent of bonds and corporate shares, while the richest 0.01 percent own 62.7 percent. In the US, the richest 1 percent holds 54 percent of shares held by US households.
However, Oxfam’s analysis shows that taxes on capital gains, which can help fund public services like healthcare and education, have fallen to an average of 18 percent, and that one in five countries do not even tax them at all.
“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 percent on super-rich 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 Behar.