>Millions on the payroll


A special report on the future of jobs in this week’s Economist included a list of the world’s top ten employers. In 2010 the two largest employers in the world were the US Department of Defence (covering all branches of the American armed forces) and the Chinese Army, with 3.2m and 2.3m employees respectively.

The list demonstrates a number of trends, including the rise of China (five of the top ten are Chinese companies (including Hon Hai, who are headquartered in Taiwan)), the scale of state concerns (only three of the top ten are private companies) and the global power of Walmart, whose workforce almost equals the Chinese Army and makes it easily the biggest private sector employer.

The most interesting name for me was the one I had never heard of. Hon Hai Precision Industry entered the list at number 10 with 800,000 employees. Hoovers describe Hon Hai as “the biggest electronics company that you have never heard of”. Its principal subsidiary, Foxconn, is better known following a series of employee suicides and scandals.

Hon Hai are the manufacturing muscle behind Apple’s recent success stories. From iPods to iPads, Hon Hai has provided the components and assembled the products. It has not put all its eggs in one basket and also makes mobile phones for Nokia, computers for Dell and electronics for Sony.