This chart shows the world’s ten biggest employers. Some of the companies won’t surprise you at all–McDonald’s, for instance, comes in at number four. But the worldwide fast-food giant is beaten by a more U.S.-centric Walmart, and that’s only the beginning.
The chart, made by Statista and backed up by numbers sourced from Wikipedia, is heavy on nationally-owned organizations. At the top is the U.S. Department of Defense, with a workforce of 3.2 million souls, followed by China’s People’s Liberation Army which, despite the name, actually comprises all of China’s armed forces, not just the army.
China’s oil and electricity services are also in there, as is Britain’s National Health Service, closely followed by India’s railway and military, which makes Walmart and McDonald’s two of only three private companies on the list. The other? Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd. The Chinese manufacturer makes electronic goods for everyone from Apple to Nintendo to Microsoft and has factories all over the world, not just the famous ones in Shenzhen, China.
Another way to look at the numbers is by country. Measured by population, China, India and the U.S. are the biggest in the world, in that order. These countries account for nine of the ten biggest employers on the chart, which makes the appearance of the UK’s National Health Service all the more extraordinary. The UK is the 22nd most populous country, and yet its health service–founded in 1948–is the fifth biggest employer in the world. Yet despite this, the NHS is relatively cheap, at just 9.4% of the UK’s GDP in 2012, lower than the E.U. average (10.2%) and the OECD average (12.6%).
However you look at it, though, it’s easy to see that the most prolific employers in the world are our governments, which spend most of it on defense, and the rest on infrastructure. And then we, the worker drones, waste our government wages on hamburgers.