Amazon reports median wage of $28K in 2017 — here’s why the number is so low

Warehouse workers, part-time and full-time, represent a significant chunk of Amazon’s global workforce. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The median compensation of Amazon’s more than 566,000 global employees at the end of 2017 was $28,446, according to the company’s annual proxy statement, much lower than its fellow tech giants.

Amazon’s global workforce today looks a lot more like that of a traditional big corporation with its hands in a lot of different industries than a company made up almost entirely out of highly paid techies. Included in the calculation are full-time and part-time workers at warehouses around the globe and its growing retail footprint that includes Whole Foods stores, as well as the tech workers in Seattle and other offices.

Amazon released the following statement to GeekWire about its variety of employees:

Amazon proudly employs over 560,000 people around the world. These roles range from associates working in our fulfillment centers to customer service representatives to software engineers and product managers. We also offer employees a lot of flexibility, from part-time to seasonal to full-time. And we employee people in more than 50 countries – from the U.S. to Poland to India. Our median pay is across that entire range of our workforce – global, full and part-time, and every area of the company. In every country and every sector where we employee people, we offer highly competitive wage and benefits such as company stock, health insurance and retirement savings, innovative parental leave, and training for in-demand jobs through our Career Choice program.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos took home $1.68 million in total compensation in 2017, most of which came in the form of security and travel expenses. Bezos took a salary of $81,840, same as he drew the two years prior, and the company says he has never received any additional stock-based compensation. Because of Bezos’ low salary, Amazon’s ratio of CEO compensation compared to the median worker is 59 to one.

Bezos is commonly referred to as the richest person in the world, but virtually all of his wealth is tied up in his holdings of Amazon stock as a founder of the company. According to the proxy statement, Bezos still holds 78,893,033 Amazon shares, which are worth more than $120.5 billion at today’s closing price of $1,527.84.

Public companies now have to break out median worker pay and how that compares to CEO compensation for the first time this year, thanks to a set of rules that date back to the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act passed in 2010. The rules went into effect for the first fiscal year after Jan. 1, 2017, which means the disclosure is appearing in annual financial documents in 2018.

Executive compensation firm Equilar in February conducted an anonymous survey of 356 public companies to gauge CEO pay ratios they planned to report in their proxy statements. The survey found the median CEO to worker pay ratio was 140 to one.

Amazon’s highest paid named executives in 2017 were Worldwide Consumer CEO Jeff Wilke, Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy, and Senior Vice President of Business Development Jeff Blackburn — all at $175,000 per year. None of them received stock awards in 2017 as Amazon awards them every other year. Jassy, the top executive of Amazon’s market leading cloud division, was the highest compensated Amazon employee in 2016, earning $35,609,644, mostly in stock awards.

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