The Forsa survey, published in financial daily Handelsblatt, said that 71 percent of Germans considered massive salaries unjustified, while only 26 percent said they thought they were acceptable.
The survey was carried out this week after new figures were released on Wednesday showed that the CEOs of Germany’s top 30 companies earned an average of €6.1 million in 2011, up nine percent from the year before.
Leader of the pack was Volkswagen chief Martin Winterkorn, who earned a whopping €17.5 million for his efforts, the highest salary ever for a DAX company employee. Bonuses and profit incentives made up the vast majority of his money, after Germany’s biggest carmaker raked in record profits – his basic salary is only €1.9 million.
Women were more critical than men of CEOs’ high wages – only 78 percent found seven or eight-figure salaries unjustified, compared to 63 percent of men. Young people were less outraged. Only 63 percent of people in the 18 – 29 age bracket thought bonuses were too high.
“Young people have fewer reservations,” explained Forsa head Manfred Güllner. “They want to keep their options open and have high expectations of their own careers.”
According to Handelsblatt, executives’ wages rose at quadruple the rate of other employees last year. But the German top wages are dwarfed by their counterparts in the US, where CEOs earn an average of €12 million.