Britain's top executives now earn almost 100 times more than the average worker, new figures have revealed, with their average earnings doubling since the year 2000.
The average total remuneration of the bosses of FTSE 100 companies amounted to £2.87m in the 2005-06 financial year, an increase of 43 per cent on the previous year, according to pay analysts Incomes Data Services (IDS).
This means that FTSE 100 bosses now earn an average of 98 times more than the national average, a two-and-a-half fold increase on the 39 times multiple recorded in 2000.
Since 2000, the average earnings for a FTSE 100 chief executive has risen by 102 per cent while the equivalent rise for full-time staff was just 28.6 per cent.
Much of this has been in the form of so-called performance-related bonuses, long-term incentives and share options.
Across all FTSE 350 companies, just over half of CEOs took home in excess of £1m.
Finance directors also enjoyed big pay hikes, with their total packages worth an average of £1.43m.
"Oscar Wilde may not have had directors' pay in mind when he said 'moderation is a fatal thing... nothing succeeds like excess', but given our latest survey it seems like remuneration committees have acted on his advice," said Steve Tatton, editor of the IDS Executive Compensation Review.
What's more, IDS suggested, these huge increases have not attracted the furore that they did just a few years ago.
"Not long ago such high earnings figures for top directors would have sparked off a wave of adverse public comment," the report stated.
"But while the potential and actual payouts from incentive schemes have been steadily climbing, the sound and fury of outraged public and media disapproval has never been more subdued.
"The current subdued climate is also testimony to the hard lessons learnt by remuneration committees from past episodes of media-fuelled outrage.
"Remuneration committees and their advisers have found that the best way to avoid any potential public pitfalls is by making sure major shareholders are on board before any changes are put to a vote."
But Brendan Barber, General Secretary of union body the TUC, said that it was hard not to conclude that executive pay is now more about greed than performance.
"The stratospheric levels of directors' pay compared to the average wages mean that executives now live in a class apart, even from employees in their own companies. It is not just socially divisive, but bad for the economy," he said.
"No one should now have any illusions that executive remuneration has been brought under control. Giving shareholders a vote on boardroom pay has failed to rein in excess, as remuneration committees have simply found new ways to keep pushing up pay."
Even Richard Lambert, Director-General of employers' group the CBI, admitted that excessive executive pay has contributed to a decline in public trust in business.
"There is no doubt that this changing ratio between the pay of the top and the average employee has had an impact on the public view of big business, especially in those cases where high compensation has not been matched by high performance."