SA ranked the top place to be CEO … if you want to be richer than society

New York – If your life’s goal is to be a highly paid chief executive officer, the US is the place. But if your dream is just to be richer than society, South Africa and India are great bets too.

In either case, probably best to avoid Thailand, Poland and China.

A Bloomberg ranking of CEO compensation at companies filling benchmark indexes in 25 of the world’s largest economies shows the biggest salaries – by far – are written in the US Heads of S&P 500 businesses get pay packages averaging $16.9m (R241.4m), about 2.6 times more than what their counterparts reap abroad. In second-place Switzerland, CEOs get 1.6 times the average.

In China, pay is 90% below the average – at least based on disclosures by companies in the Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 Index. They typically report annual compensation of about $640 000. But heads of state-owned companies, for example, enjoy valuable perks including housing and entertainment that sometimes go unmentioned in filings.

The deck gets shuffled a bit in a second Bloomberg ranking, comparing CEO pay to estimated income generated per person – a rough gauge of what chiefs get relative to the society where their companies are listed. That puts pay for CEOs in South Africa and India ahead of the US.

There are myriad reasons behind the international disparities in packages.

One of most important is size. The US is home to many of the world’s largest publicly traded corporations.

Cost of living explains some of it, too. It’s much more expensive to live lavishly in North America and Western Europe than in places like Thailand, where CEOs take home roughly $60 000 – less than in every other nation ranked