CEOs Continue to Earn High Salaries Despite Widespread Layoffs

As companies lay off employees, CEOs face little to no pay cuts and may even receive raises in the coming year.

Amidst a wave of layoffs across corporate America, CEOs are facing scrutiny for their continued high salaries and lack of meaningful pay cuts. While thousands of workers are losing their jobs, top executives are often shielded from financial setbacks, with some even receiving raises. This disparity raises questions about the state of the economy and the priorities of companies heading into the 2024 presidential election.

High layoffs despite job growth:

Despite record job growth in the United States, many companies have implemented significant layoffs. For example, Salesforce, which reported $8.2 billion in revenue in the first quarter, laid off approximately 10 percent of its workforce. CEO Marc Benioff attributed the layoffs to economic conditions. This trend of rewarding CEOs for layoffs is not uncommon, as Wall Street often views it as a sign of tough action to streamline the company. However, this practice raises concerns about the well-being of workers and the long-term impact on the economy.

Limited CEO pay cuts:

While layoffs are prevalent, CEOs are rarely taking significant pay cuts. Al Jazeera’s analysis of over 90 companies across multiple industries revealed that few CEOs publicly announced pay cuts. Companies like Twilio, Micron Tech, Goldman Sachs, and Alphabet made headlines for their CEOs’ pay reductions. However, the significance of these cuts varies. For instance, Alphabet’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, announced he would not take a bonus this year, but this decision followed a substantial compensation increase in 2022. This raises questions about the sincerity and impact of such gestures.

The complexities of salary cuts:

Taking a pay cut is not always straightforward for executives, as it can be perceived as a sign of weakness and affect stock prices. Publicly traded companies are obligated to prioritize shareholder interests, and executives can face legal consequences if their decisions are deemed contrary to those interests. Furthermore, salary cuts are often not as meaningful as they appear in public relations campaigns. Companies may reduce base salaries while enhancing stock-based compensation, allowing executives to maintain substantial overall compensation.

The need for genuine reductions:

Experts argue that the focus should be on the type and extent of pay cuts CEOs are willing to take. Temporary reductions in base salaries or symbolic gestures may not address the underlying issue of executive compensation. Companies like Intel have implemented temporary salary reductions but have compensated by increasing stock-based compensation. To truly demonstrate a commitment to shared sacrifice, CEOs should consider forgoing stock grants and focusing on meaningful reductions in their total compensation.


As companies continue to lay off employees, CEOs face little to no financial setbacks. While some CEOs have made public gestures of pay cuts, the overall impact on their compensation remains minimal. The disparity between layoffs and executive compensation raises concerns about the priorities of companies and the well-being of workers. Meaningful reductions in CEO pay, particularly in stock-based compensation, would send a stronger message of shared sacrifice and demonstrate a genuine commitment to the employees affected by layoffs. As the 2024 presidential election approaches, these issues will undoubtedly play a role in shaping public opinion and policy discussions surrounding economic inequality.

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