CEO salaries

How much German bosses really earn

how much german ceos earn
Executive perks in Germany aren't as high-flying as in other countries. Source: Mauritius

The average German chief executive earns €171,000 a year, with €22,500 in bonuses in a good year. He — yes, he — is 52 years old, has 37 staff under him, drives a company-owned Audi A6, and works a 48-hour week. What about women? They only make up 8.6 percent of German chief executives, and earn 15 percent less than their male colleagues.

These are the findings of the latest annual study carried out by consultants BBE Media and the German Taxpayers Federation, seen exclusively by Handelsblatt. The data comes from 3,000 executives of limited liability companies, the country’s most popular corporate legal form, abbreviated as GmbH.

Although some executives’ salaries still make headlines, across Germany overall executive pay levels have been stagnant for the past two years. More than three-quarters of the survey’s respondents saw no increase in 2017.

And executive pay levels in Germany still lag behind the US. Outraged reports in German media have become more frequent as pay levels rise, but German companies argue the levels are necessary to be competitive internationally.

No rise outside the DAX

Though recent years saw little apparent change to pay levels, salaries differ a lot between large corporations and smaller firms. Human resources consultants Kienbaum recently reported that the CEOs of the 30 companies in the blue-chip DAX index saw their salaries rise 7.7 percent, with other senior executives receiving an average increase of 4.9 percent.

Outside of the DAX companies, executives looking to earn big should opt for a job in chemicals, pharmaceuticals or carmaking. In those sectors, the average CEO salary reached €169,000 in 2017, considerably higher than in retail or skilled labor services. Bringing up the rear were auto sales companies, which paid bosses an average of just €92,000 annually.

how much do german ceos earn, germany ceo salaries
how much do german ceos earn, germany ceo salaries

Equal pay between men and women remains a distant dream in the German corporate world. Not only do women executives earn less than men, the pay differential is bigger in larger companies and at higher echelons of management.

This is only partially explained by a shortage of women in high-pay sectors such as chemicals and carmaking. Overall, the proportion of female CEOs fell last year, to 8.6 percent.

The company car is still a much-loved perk, with 86 percent of senior executives driving a corporate vehicle. But here too, women lose out. Although an equal percentage of female bosses receive a car, they tend to drive less luxurious models than their male colleagues, say, a Volkswagen Passat rather than an E-class Mercedes.

The annual salary survey is not only read by executives considering making a plea for a raise. The German tax authorities are also known to study its data in hopes of spotting irregularities in tax returns.

Bert-Friedrich Fröndhoff leads a team of Handelsblatt reporters covering the chemicals, health care and services industries. To contact the author:

We hope you enjoyed this article

Make sure to sign up for our free newsletters too!