CEO pay still near historic levels at 197 times more than the average worker

New gender analysis suggests executive bonus pay has little to do with ‘merit’
January 2, 2019

OTTAWA—Canada’s 100 highest paid CEOs netted 197 times more than the average worker made in 2017, earning the average yearly wage ($50,759) before lunch on Jan. 2, according to a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The report shows the country’s 100 highest paid CEOs on the S&P/TSX Composite index made an average of $10 million in 2017, slightly less than last year’s report but still the second highest amount since the CCPA has been keeping track.

“Despite what appears to be a tight labour market, markedly higher wages haven’t materialized for the average worker,” says study author CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald. “This report serves as a reminder that immense wealth continues to circulate through the economy—it’s just not making its way into the hands of the average worker.”

This year a second new report (The Double-Pane Glass Ceiling: The gender gap at the top of corporate Canada) examines differences in pay between male and female corporate executives. It reveals a significant gender pay gap in Canada’s C-suite, undercutting the “merit” argument often used to justify extreme levels of executive compensation. Among top executives, women make $0.68 for every dollar their male colleagues make, amounting to $950,000 less in pay a year. The ratio is $0.83 among all fulltime workers.

“Women face a double-pane glass ceiling in corporate Canada. Not only will they find it almost impossible to break into the C-suite, but even if they make it they’ll face a significant pay gap,” says Macdonald. “These are the results of Canadian corporate culture, not ‘merit.’ Evidence suggests women’s much lower pay and representation at the very top has more to do with systemic discrimination that starts early in their careers, despite similar educational attainment to their male peers.”

Among the CCPA’s findings:

• The average worker will have to work full time all year to earn what a top CEO does by 11:33 a.m. on January 2;

• Last year’s CEO pay numbers were particularly high due to six men receiving extreme retirement bonuses worth between $9-18 million each. If these are removed, this year becomes the highest paid year for the richest 100 CEOs;

• “Variable” or bonus pay linked to a company’s stock price accounted for 77% of CEO pay. This type of pay encourages short term thinking to the detriment of long-term investment and economic growth;

• Bonus pay is also the driving force behind the gender pay gap for top executives. Even between male and female executives at the same company based on the same stock price, women get substantially lower bonuses;

• The gender pay gap is driven primarily by position type (women not making it to CFO and CEO positions), but also by company size and industry (larger companies and industries with higher executive pay are less likely to have female executives). Only 10% of C-suite executives are women.

“If executive bonus pay is really about ‘merit,’ we shouldn’t see such extreme differences in bonuses between different executives at the same company. This cuts right to the heart of the meritocracy argument some use to attempt to justify outrageous CEO pay,” adds Macdonald.


Mint Condition: Executive pay in Canada and The Double-Pane Glass Ceiling: The gender gap at the top of corporate Canada are available on the CCPA website. For more information and interviews contact Alyssa O’Dell, CCPA Media and Public Relations: 613-563-1341 x307,