Indian top executives earn in just four hours what an average worker makes in a year, a study by non-governmental organisation Oxfam International on Monday showed.

The top 150 executives in India were paid $1 million (about Rs 8.17 crore) on an average in 2022, the NGO said in its report. Their wages, along with the executives in the United Kingdom, the United States and South Africa increased by 9% in 2022, while workers worldwide took a 3.1% pay cut.

The figures are based on the latest data from the International Labor Organization and other government statistics agencies.

According to the study, one billion workers in 50 countries took an average annual pay cut of $685 (around Rs 55,995) in 2022, a collective loss of $746 billion (around Rs 61.04 lakh crore) in real wages.

Of these, the study said that women and girls were putting in at least hours worth 380 billion (around Rs 31 lakh crore) 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,” it said. “They also continue to face gender-based discrimination, harassment, and less pay for work of equal value as men.”

In Brazil, the wages of workers fell 6.9%, while in the US and the UK, they were reduced by 3.2% and 2.5%.

Meanwhile, in the US, the top 100 executives earned $24 million (about Rs 196.18 crore) in 2022, while in the UK and South Africa they were paid $5 million (around Rs 40.87 crore) and $0.8 million (approximately Rs 6.53 crore).

“The average worker in the US would have to work for 413 years to match what a top-paid CEO makes in 12 months,” the report said. “50% of women of colour in the US make less than $15 an hour.”

In the UK, the best-paid CEOs were given $5 million (approximately Rs 40.87 crore) on average in 2022. The report said that they made 140 times more money than the average worker in the country.

Top-paid CEOs in South Africa made $800,000 (about Rs 6.47 crore) on average in 2022, which is 43 times the pay of the average worker, the report added.

Even as the share of pay received by workers has decreased, dividends earned by stockholders hit a record-high of $1.56 trillion (approximately Rs 127 lakh) in 2022, a 10% real-time growth when compared to 2021, the NGO said.

“Exorbitant shareholder payouts benefit the richest in society, exacerbating already high levels of inequality,” it said. “The wealthiest 1% of South Africans own more than 95% of bonds and corporate shares, while the richest 0.01% own 62.7%. In the US, the richest 1% hold 54% of shares held by US households.”

At the same time, taxes on income from dividends and shares that help fund public services like healthcare and education have continued to decline, falling from 61% in 1980 to just 42% today, the report added.

Changes in tax rates worldwide since 1980 (Source: Oxfam International)

Oxfam International interim Executive Director Amitabh Behar said that years of austerity and attacks on trade unions have widened the gap between the richest and others.

“While corporate bosses are telling us we need to keep wages down, they’re giving themselves and their shareholders massive payouts,” Behar said. “Most people are working longer for less and can’t keep up with the cost of living.”

He added that governments should stop relying on interest rate hikes as they “hurt ordinary people”. Several central banks in the US, the UK, India and European countries had aggressively raised interest rates in the second half of 2022 in a bid to curb inflation.

“Instead, they should introduce top rates of tax of at least 75% on super-rich corporate bosses to discourage sky-high executive pay, and windfall taxes on excessive corporate profits,” he said. “They must also ensure minimum wages keep up with inflation, and that everyone has the right to unionize, strike and bargain collectively.”

Oxfam International, which is focused on alleviating of global poverty, has demanded permanently increasing taxes on the richest 1%.