What are you worth?

How much did you earn in your first job? Do you even remember? 

Most of us probably earned a pittance in the early days of our adolescence, working on a paper round or at the local McDonalds, or working in retail over the school holidays. 

I came late to work, finding a factory job at the beginning of university before the term started. It was an awful job, standing all day, spray painting car parts, gloveboxes I think. 

I do remember hobbling home that first week to soak my poor feet in a tub of warm water; they were killing me, unaccustomed as I was to standing on concrete floors for eight hours.

One of the things that annoyed me about that job was the low rate of pay. 

My boyfriend at the time was working in a factory crushing reject cigarettes – another between uni jobs. Granted he stood all day as he stomped on the reject ciggies but he earned twice what I did. Where was the fairness in this? 

Low wages

We both seemed to be doing unskilled work, without much need for expertise. The factory I worked at employed mainly women; he was in an industry dominated by men. My hackles rise every time I think about that situation. And the continuing pay disparity between women and men. And the low wages of care givers in our society.

This leads me to my major beef today – the wages paid to top executives. 

The headlines this week revealed that Elon Musk had asked his shareholders for a pay remuneration of $56 billion. Yes, you read that correctly. Not millions, but billions. 

Granted an American billion is not the same as a UK standard billion – the American one is a thousand million whereas the UK one was traditionally a million, million, but who needs to quibble at this point. It is an obscenely large sum of many in any one’s terms. In fact, it seems beyond the comprehension of most of us.

When Tesla shareholders voted to approve of this wage demand, Musk was said to have exclaimed, “Hot damn, I love you guys.” 

Well, I can see how easily his love is bought. But should this be happening? How can anyone on this planet be worth being paid that much money?

The trouble with giving such immense salaries/stock options to heads of corporations is multi layered. Obviously, paying out those sums before paying shareholders a dividend, eats into the money pie leftover. Tesla shareholders seem to think this is worthwhile though they appear to be gambling on an increase in share price because Musk is lured to stay on as head of the company.

Narcissistic behaviour

Paying such sums of money inevitably leads to an enlarged ego on the part of the CEO. And whose ego wouldn’t soar in those situations? But is this healthy and what are the consequences of such an ego stroke? Narcissistic behaviour and a disconnect from the real world?

The trouble with having and earning immense sums of money is the power and influence that it brings – power to change the direction of politics, manipulate the media and affect the lives of untold people around the globe. 

Do we want to invest such power in these CEOs and corporations? A bit late I suppose to be asking these questions, when the heads of Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook and Tesla are paid obscene amounts. To me they appear to be the new kings of the world, strutting their importance, pushing their agendas, but thankfully not chopping anyone’s heads off-yet.

Sweden has balked at paying huge wages to CEOs, with governments there focussing on spreading wealth across the society. Their top executives are paid well below rates of the rest of the world and both shareholders and executives seem happy with the situation. They also hold to the concept of “jantelagen” which means nobody should show off or break the mould. 

Perhaps an email or X (formerly Twitter) message should be sent to Elon Musk alerting him to the Swedish philosophy? I bet he never earned a pittance on a factory floor or hobbled home from standing all day.

Do you think executive salaries have got out of hand? Why not share your opinion in the comments section below?

Also read: Why bad advertising leaves me confused and angry


  1. These executives are far too greedy. Superannuation companies and individuals are their main shareholders looking at supporting retirement etcetera.

    At the AGMs of some of these big companies/banks there is a question to shareholders along the lines of ‘do they support and increase of x amount of dollars and a remuneration package or the current CEO on retirement” but has a disclaimer saying “the board does not have to comply with the response from shareholders” – which I am sure would be no!

    If a bank CEO is on $4M per year, he works? a 40 hr week that is $76,923.07 per week – more than many, many people ever earn! Bring that down to per hour and we have $1,923.07 or $32.05 per minute. A three minute visit to the bathroom = $96.15!!

    We need the best people for the job. But I am sure many bright younger people would be suitable – still need experience so perhaps not under 45 years but a lot of these people are a lot older and hang onto these jobs when they should give others ago. I think some of it is ‘old boy’ network. And the number of shares they are given on retirement is wrong. We worked at our jobs, had a nice afternoon tea and were given flowers and a gift voucher or the like. The same for politicians to. I would like to know what ex-politicians, governors, judges and prime-ministers and governors general get after they have left the job.

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