July 2013

IZA DP No. 7486: Long Run Trends in Australian Executive Remuneration: BHP 1887-2012

Mike Pottenger, Andrew Leigh

published in: Australian Economic History Review, 2016, 56 (1), 2-20

Outside the US, little is known of long-run trends in executive compensation. We fill this gap by studying BHP, a resources giant that has long been one of the largest companies on the Australian stock market. From 1887 to 2013, trends in CEO and director remuneration (relative to average earnings) follow a U-shape. This matches the pattern for US executive compensation, Australian top incomes, and (for the past two decades) average trends in executive compensation in top Australian firms. Like the US, Australia experienced a post-war 'great compression' prior to the recent 'great divergence'.