As far as Britain's top bosses are concerned, it's as if the recession never have happened. Despite pay increases for the average worker not breaking the three per cent barrier, the directors of Britain's 100 largest companies awarded themselves a staggering 55 per cent rise in total remuneration over the last year, pushing their earnings to an average 88 times that of the average full-time worker.
Figures from Incomes Data Services (IDS) found that despite their basic pay rising only 3.6 per cent in the year to June 2010, executives in FTSE-100 firms took home an average of £4.9 million in total earnings, thanks largely to a resurgence in bonus payments, the value of share option gains and long-term incentive plans.
The average bonus for a FTSE 100 chief executives was £701,512, up 34 per cent from last year.
Bart Becht, who runs the consumer goods giant Reckitt Benckiser, emerged as the highest-paid FTSE 100 chief executive, earning £92.6m in 2009.
Steve Tatton, editor of the IDS Directors Pay Report comments: "It seems the days of earnings restraint by FTSE-350 directors were short-lived. It is as though the recession never happened."
"It stands in stark contrast to the coalition Government's concerns about pay fairness and calls for senior executives in the public sector to accept pay cuts."
While chief executives will inevitably argue that their pay is a result of rising share prices and improved company performance, shareholders are likely to ask whether the business improvement over the period warrants the scale of the increases.
Indeed all the evidence suggests that there is little long-term linkage between share price performance and director remuneration. While the FTSE 100 rose 14.5 per cent over the period of the survey, bonuses were up by over a third, share option gains by over 90 per cent and long term incentives by over 70 per cent.
While IDS pointed out that the figures posed some difficult questions for company remuneration committees and shareholders, they have also attracted a chorus of public disapproval, with even the Financial Times saying that "FTSE 100 bosses could not have shown less tact".
As Richard Lambert, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, put it earlier this year, "if leaders of big companies seem to occupy a different galaxy from the rest of the community, they risk being treated as aliens."