The World's Largest Employers

Walmart is the largest private employer and the third-largest employer in the world. Editorial credit: Ken Wolter /
Walmart is the largest private employer and the third-largest employer in the world. Editorial credit: Ken Wolter /

The World Economic Forum has identified the world’s largest employers to comprise of both state-controlled and privately owned companies. The US, China, and the UK are the largest employers in the world with employee headcount being based in the retail, military, health, and manufacturing industries. Below is a list of the largest global employers based on the number of employee headcount in the companies.

Top 5 Largest Employers

United States Department of Defense

The Department of Defense is the executive branch of the US federal government with the mandate to coordinate and supervise all the functions and government agencies concerned with matters of national security and the Armed Forces. The Department of Defense is the leading and largest global employer with a total of 3.2 million employees comprising of active servicemen, national guardsmen and reservists, and civilians from the four services. The US Department of Defense has the largest military budget in the world and is considered the most advanced following its technological advancement in military equipment.

People's Liberation Army

The Chinese People Liberation Army acts as the armed forces of the Communist Party of China and the People's Republic of China. It comprises of five main service branches namely the Strategic Support Force, Navy, Air Force, Ground Force, Rocket Force, as well as one reservist service branch. The Liberation Army is the world’s second-largest employer with a workforce comprising of 2.3 million employees, which is 0.18% of the entire country’s population. The PLA is the fastest growing military group in the world following its recent commissioning of numerous technological advancements in weapons and military resources.


Walmart is an American multinational Fortune 500 retail corporation operating a chain of departmental stores, hypermarkets, and grocery store in the US, Europe, and Asia. It is a publicly traded family-owned business reporting the largest revenues of over $100 billion US dollars in the retail industry across the globe. It is the largest private employer and the third largest employer in the world boasting a team of 2.1 million employees.


McDonald's is the largest food chain company in the world and the fourth largest employer with 1.7 employees, the majority of whom work in the restaurant's franchisees. McDonald's serves more than 69 million customers in over one hundred countries where they operate under franchises business. The company derives its revenues from the restaurant sales and royalties, and fees and rents paid in by the franchisees.

China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC)

China National Petroleum Corporation is the fifth largest employer in the world with a total of 1.7 million employees. It ranks as the third largest incorporated energy group in the world specializing in oil and gas. CNPC is a state-owned company concerned with hydrocarbon exploration, chemical and natural gas production, refining, and marketing of its products in China and beyond.

China's Position

China holds 4 spots among the top 10, with the China National Petroleum Corporation, State Grid Corporation of China, and China National Petroleum, as well as Foxconn, also known as the Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd., headquartered in Taiwan. In total, these four companies employ 5.6 million people.

The World's Largest Employers

RankEmployerEmployees (Millions)
1United States Department of Defense3.2
2People's Liberation Army (China)2.3
4McDonald's 1.7
5China National Petroleum Corporation1.7
6State Grid Corporation of China1.6
7China National Petroleum1.5
8National Health Service (United Kingdom)1.4
9Indian Railways1.4
10Indian Armed Forces1.3

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