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February 23, 2009 9:58 PM   Subscribe

Who are the world's largest employers?

Googling the question just gives me Forbes 500 lists and the like, which only rank companies by dollar value. I'm more interested in people value. This article suggests that the Indian Railway employs 2.4 million employees, which is double Wallmart's payroll. Are there (or have there been) larger?
posted by Popular Ethics to Work & Money (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
The world's largest employer is the People's Republic of China. The world's second largest employer is the Republic of India. The world's third largest employer is the United States of America.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:07 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


1.8 million people work for the US government, excluding the postal service, which employs 0.615 million people, so that beats the Indian railway by 15,000. 1,2
posted by delmoi at 10:08 PM on February 23, 2009


Yeah, Indian Railways is state-owned, and most governments tend to be the largest employers in the world, so unless that's what you're looking for you'll need to be more specific.
posted by armage at 10:48 PM on February 23, 2009


I think I heard somewhere that the UK's NHS is the largest employer.

I don't think you can really count the government as a single entity btw.
posted by ryanbryan at 11:01 PM on February 23, 2009


I don't think you can really count the government as a single entity btw.

Why not?
posted by delmoi at 11:21 PM on February 23, 2009


What government pays all their employees from the same payroll?
posted by ryanbryan at 11:24 PM on February 23, 2009


Manpower, Inc., employs approx. 4.4 million people per year, but it's a temp agency, so I don't know how that factors into the equations.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:25 PM on February 23, 2009


According to this, the world's largest non-governmental, non-temp employer is Wal-Mart at a little over 2 million in 2008.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:27 PM on February 23, 2009


Civil_Disobedient beat me to it, but I was going to link to that claim in Wikipedia.
posted by Horselover Fat at 11:34 PM on February 23, 2009


Wal-Mart is the world's largest private (non-government) employer.

If you are thinking of government services, then it would be the British National Health Service and the Indian Railway.
posted by JackFlash at 11:40 PM on February 23, 2009


Actually, I was told this in the induction for my NHS job: the NHS is the world's fifth-largest employer. It used to be third, after the Chinese civil service and the Indian railway, respectively, but it has relatively recently (I think in the last 10 years) been surpassed by Walmart and the American Department of Defense.
posted by Acheman at 1:00 AM on February 24, 2009


My wife, an NHS employee, was once told by a senior consultant that he had made up the 'NHS is the world's third largest employer after the Chinese army and Indian Railway' soundbite more or less on the spot during a presentation. It was picked up by a journalist and has subsequently become 'true'. It's now so pervasive that his claim to have invented it in the first place sounds more suspicious.
posted by jonathanbell at 2:36 AM on February 24, 2009


The Government of Canada is the largest employer in Canada. Sensing a theme here?
posted by onshi at 4:16 AM on February 24, 2009


What government pays all their employees from the same payroll?

Depending on what you mean by payroll, the United States government.

You can choose to count entire governments any way you want. But each of these governments basically has a single executive who can order what they damn well please.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:22 AM on February 24, 2009


What government pays all their employees from the same payroll?

Depending on what you mean by this, Canada does. Almost all federal public servants, no matter their department or agency, have the same employer (Treasury Board) as far as everything formal is concerned:
...Under the broad authority of sections 5 to 13 of the Financial Administration Act, the Secretariat supports the Treasury Board in its role as the general manager and employer of the public service...
My understanding is that many governments do this to avoid massive duplication of various administrative functions.
posted by onshi at 6:28 AM on February 24, 2009


This is an interesting list.
posted by charlesv at 7:11 AM on February 24, 2009


Thanks all. I wasn't specific about whether it should be private sector or public service because I really didn't know. I was just curious what the limits of human organizational structures were. (too bad no one could find numbers for the Indian or Chinese civil service).
posted by Popular Ethics at 3:13 PM on February 24, 2009


"My understanding is that many governments do this to avoid massive duplication of various administrative functions."

This is quite bold a statement - one that should be backed up with facts. I don't disagree with your interpretation of Canada's method of public service employment, but I would imagine this is the exception rather than the rule. I know that this is certainly not the case in Australia. Each department has its own payroll.
posted by ryanbryan at 2:32 AM on February 25, 2009


@ryanbryan: Why you gotta be like that, yo? A bold statement, perhaps, but a bold statement of my opinion, as indicated by the phrase "my understanding is...". Anyway, how about:
"My understanding is that THE governments THAT do this DO SO IN PART to avoid massive duplication of various administrative functions".
For example, collective bargaining is simplified considerably when the employer-side expertise need not be decentralized, but is instead handled by a centralized team. This also benefits unions, as they can maintain a single bargaining team in the capital. To do this (here), the centralized entity needs to be formally designated as the employer regardless of the practical or technical mechanics of how departmental payrolls are maintained from day to day.

We could probably spend ages hashing out what I, you, or the OP mean when we say a single payroll (could it be the case that Wal-Mart really only has ONE global payroll? etc.) but I'm not sure that's germane to the question at hand.
posted by onshi at 12:56 PM on February 26, 2009


I don't disagree at all. I was simply commenting on the reality of the situation (the question of the OP), rather than the whys and hows.
posted by ryanbryan at 12:17 AM on March 9, 2009


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