World's Largest Employer (You'll Never Guess)

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Department of Defense world's largest employerWhich organization is the world's largest employer?

Here are some hints:

  • It employs roughly one in 10 citizens.
  • It's in the United States.
  • It's not Walmart.

No, it's not IBM or Microsoft. Or Apple. Or Google. Or any tech giant.

Stumped? It's the U.S. Department of Defense.

With a total of 3.2 million staff members, the DOD tops the list of the world's largest employers in a list put together by the BBC and compiled from global company and government information.

As the BBC points out, the information used to make the largest-employer list was far from standard, based on statistics provided by each entity. And in the case of the U.S. Department of Defense, the total number of employees includes civilian workers, as well as those in uniform.

China's military, the People's Liberation Army, came in second on the BBC list, but it's hard to know how accurate that is, given that country's lack of transparency.

And DOD is also primed for some cuts. With the goal of reducing America's defense budget by $487 billion over 10 years, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced a plan earlier this year that would feature the elimination of 100,000 service posts. Eighty percent of the staff reductions are to be in the Army, with the other 20 percent tagged for the Marines, according to USA Today.

The plan is pending approval by Congress. But it has already attracted the opposition from critics concerned about a host of issues including jobs. And those critics say the resulting blows in employment will extend beyond the walls of the Pentagon itself. "Only about 35 percent [of the projected job losses] are in the aerospace and military equipment manufacturing sectors," the Washington Post quoted George Mason University professor Stephen Fuller as warning Congress at the end of last year. "In fact, only 125,000 of those are manufacturing jobs specific to the production of these products, these military hardware. The other 65 percent are jobs on Main Street."

The Defense Department is nevertheless primed to remain among the top world employers regardless of the outcome of the debate over its budget. And it is joined in the current top 10 by two other national armed forces, those of India and China. In fact, government entities comprise seven of the top 10, with the other three spots taken up by Walmart, McDonald's and Foxconn, the Taiwan-based producer of electronics such as the Apple iPad.

Foxconn's placement on the list was of particular note, given its plan to hire robots to replace humans. According to the tech news site, the Gadget Fan, Foxconn is looking to increase its robot staff from 10,000 to 300,000 in the next three years.

Here's the Top 10 (with staff size in parentheses):

  1. U.S. Department of Defense (3.2 million)
  2. People's Liberation Army (2.3 million)
  3. Walmart (2.1 million)
  4. McDonald's (1.9 million)
  5. U.K. National Health Service (1.7 million)
  6. China National Petroleum Corporation (1.6 million)
  7. State Corporation of China (1.5 million)
  8. Indian Railways (1.4 million)
  9. Indian Armed Forces (1.3 million)
  10. Hon Hai Precision Industry [Foxconn] (1.2 million)



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