FTSE 100 CEOs have already been paid an average worker’s annual salary, and they did it even faster than in 2022

Bosses at the U.K.’s biggest companies have already earned the equivalent of Britain’s median annual salary this year, according to new research, with top CEOs raking in tens of thousands of pounds before the third working day of 2023 is out.

According to calculations published on Thursday by the High Pay Centre, a London-based thinktank that campaigns for pay equality, median CEO pay at FTSE 100 firms—based on an analysis of the most recent CEO pay disclosures and government wage statistics—currently stands at £3.41 million ($4.1 million).

That’s 103 times the median full-time worker’s annual pay of £33,000 ($39,620).

London’s FTSE 100 index is comprised of the largest London-listed companies by market capitalization, including Rio Tinto, HSBC, Vodafone and Shell.

Thursday’s report also found that while median FTSE 100 CEO pay has increased 39% since January last year, the median worker’s pay has risen by 6% over the same period. The U.K.’s most recent annual inflation reading, for November, was 10.7%, with the consumer price index hovering above or near 10% for much of 2022.  

The High Pay Centre’s findings mean that by 2 p.m. London time (9 a.m. ET) on Thursday, the median CEO’s earnings will surpass the median annual salary for a U.K. full-time worker.

As Jan. 2 was a public holiday, that means the marker will have been reached before the end of Britain’s third working day of 2023.

This year, the milestone will be reached nine working hours earlier than it was in 2022, according to the organization’s analysis.

The phenomenon isn’t limited to Britain.

Bosses at France’s most valuable public companies are also set to earn an average French employee’s annual salary by Thursday, according to Oxfam, while chief executives in countries from the U.S. to Sweden also earn an average worker’s yearly income in a matter of days.  

In the U.K., it isn’t just CEOs who are set to make the median annual salary in a matter of days this year, the High Pay Centre’s report showed.

Partners at London’s most prestigious law firms, whose median salary rang in at £1.95 million ($2.3 million), would have earned £33,000 by Jan. 9, the thinktank said, while top bankers at one of the five banks on the FTSE 100 would have achieved the feat by Jan. 17.

Cost-of-living crisis

While inflation has plagued many western states, Britain has been hit particularly hard—and economists widely believe that things are only going to get worse for the U.K., warning that the country will experience a “deeper and more prolonged recession” than any other G7 nation.

The U.K. is currently embroiled in its worst cost-of-living crisis for decades, with inflation hitting 41-year highs last year while a shrinking economy saw the country end 2022 teetering on the brink of a recession.

Alongside an ongoing energy crisis that has seen millions of households around the U.K. plunged into “fuel poverty,” the country’s food price inflation hit a record high at the end of 2022 while real wages declined at a record rate as inflation continued to bite into Britons’ purchasing power.

The ongoing squeeze has led to widespread labor strikes across the country, with train and bus drivers, teachers, driving test examiners, nurses and ambulance drivers set to go on strike in various parts of the U.K. in January, following weeks of union action at the end of 2022.

‘Little public support’ for high CEO pay

In a statement on Thursday, the High Pay Centre’s Director Luke Hildyard said measures needed to be implemented to balance income distribution more evenly so that declining living standards in Britain could be addressed.

“In the worst economic circumstances that most people can remember, it is difficult to believe that a handful of top earners are still raking in such extraordinary amounts of money,” he said.

“The U.K. economy really cannot afford for such a big share of the wealth that is created by all workers to be captured by such a tiny number of people at the top.”

Meanwhile, Jo Wittams, co-executive director of British charity the Equality Trust, told Fortune on Thursday that her organization’s research showed that 70% of Brits support government regulation of CEO pay.

“It would be easy to portray this as a reward for hard work, but these rewards are not equitably balanced. CEOs and shareholders are reaping the benefits of record profits, while workers are urged to take real-terms pay cuts, despite increased productivity,” she said.

“Companies must be aware of the broader economic context in which they operate—recognizing that with decades of wage stagnation for workers coupled with inflation reaching a 40-year high, there is little public support for ever increasing executive pay.”

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