The four biggest employers in the world

An Indian Sikh pilgrim pays religious respect from a compartment of a special train as he arrives with others at Wagah border, the Pakistan-India joint check-post on the outskirts of Lahore, June 8, 2010, Hundreds of Sikh pilgrims are arriving to take part in the 404th Martyrdom Day celebrations of the fifth Guru of Sikhism, Arjun Dev, on June 16. Celebrations will be held at Gurdawara Dera Sahib in Lahore. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza  (PAKISTAN - Tags: RELIGION POLITICS)

Who knows if the global economy is recovering, stagnating, or double-dipping? To most around the world, however, the state of the economy can be reduced to two simple metrics. Do you have a job or not? Is it a good job? With that in mind we’re looking today at some of the world’s largest employers, both public and private.

1. The People’s Liberation Army (over 2.2 million employees)
You don’t get to be a global superpower these days without having an enormous military. In most countries, government spending on armies and armaments is a major part of the domestic economy. Sad, yes. True, also yes. It used to be that there were no ranks in Mao’s army but, along with the rest of China, the military has opted for a more hierarchical structure. So, for a few, the pay is good; for most, it isn’t.

2. Walmart (approximately 1.8 million employees)
Walmart’s workforce is more than triple the size of the world’s next largest corporate employer (Deutsche Post, the formerly public German mail corporation). But that’s not because it entices workers with competitive pay or generous benefits. No, Walmart has pretty much written the book on how to maintain a huge workforce while spending as little as possible. Allowing unions and respecting workers’ rights–that’s not how.

3. Indian Ministry of Railways (approximately 1.6 million employees)
India’s iconic railways are romanticized by both Indian nationalists and colonial apologists as the arteries which hold the world’s largest democracy together. This is not the longest railway network in the world (the US has 200,000+ miles of track to India’s 60,000+), but the Indian government does hold a national monopoly, making it the world’s largest railway company in the same way that Ontario’s LCBO is one of the largest liquor retailers in the world.

4. National Health Service (over 1.7 million employees across the UK)
Pensions and other vital programs are being threatened as Europe’s haves borrow and steal from Europe’s have-nots. One of the sectors likely to be hit hard is the UK’s public healthcare system, the largest in the world. In a noisy session of Parliament, Labour MP Alan Johnson accused some in the Conservative caucus of cheering “the deepest cuts to public spending in living memory,” suggesting this is what they got into politics to do.

Compiled by Kevin Philipupillai and Simon Wallace