In a historic move, Amazon announced today (Oct. 2) that it will raise the minimum wage for all of its US workers to $15 an hour, a move that will affect 250,000 full-time employees and 100,000 seasonal workers for the e-commerce giant. Assuming a 40-hour work week, Amazon’s lowest-paid full-time employee in the US will make around $30,000 a year.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, on the other hand, had a salary of $81,840 in 2017—still modest by CEO standards. However, he also owns 80 million shares of Amazon stock, which accounts for the bulk of his estimated net worth of $165 billion.
Bezos’ wealth has surged in the past year along with Amazon’s share price. Just in the past 12 months, his net worth increased by $82.6 billion. Break that down on an hourly basis and, assuming he makes money 24 hours a day, he increased his net worth by $19 million an hour in the past year. Presuming his wealth creation continues at a similar pace, Bezos will “make” the annual salary of one of Amazon’s newly minted $15/hour employees every 11.5 seconds.
As Bloomberg notes, Bezos’ net worth is 2,687,125 times the median US household income and equivalent to 0.85% of US GDP. Of course, he has alternative sources of income outside of Amazon. He owns two other companies—The Washington Post and the spaceflight company Blue Origin—and has made numerous personal investments in companies like Twitter through his venture capital firm Bezos Expeditions.
The debate over CEO pay is not just about begrudging the wealth of the very rich, but about the widening gap between the very rich and the average-earning employees who work for them, a ratio that has exploded in recent decades. Business school professor and popular author Adam Grant just recently called for companies to cap the ratio between CEO pay and mean employee wages, arguing it would benefit everyone involved.
Though it might be a tall order for Jeff Bezos to give a raise to all of Amazon’s 575,000 employees worldwide, increasing the hourly minimum for the lowest-paid 350,000 in Amazon’s home country is a good place for the richest man on the planet to start.