Full-time workers' pay is 62% higher than in 1986 after average earnings increased to around £12.62 an hour, according to new research.
But the increase was not evenly spread, with higher earners faring better, and the top 1% seeing pay jump by 117%.
The top 10% of earners enjoyed an 81% increase between 1986 and 2011, while the bottom 10% had a 47% rise, said the Office for National Statistics.
The bottom 1% of earners, more likely to benefit from the national minimum wage, saw their pay rise by 70%.
The study also showed real earnings fell between 2007 and 2011, with wage growth failing to keep pace with price rises during the recession.
London has the biggest wage inequality, with the top earners' pay more than 16 times higher than the lowest.
The least inequality was in Wales, where the highest earners had wages seven times higher than the lowest.
More than one in three of the highest-paid jobs in the country were in London, according to the report.
Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: "Real incomes have fallen during the recession due to pay freezes and inflation.
"If there are not negotiated settlements in the next pay round, there will be more strikes. That much is now clear."