DECEMBER 1996 · VOLUME 17 · NUMBER 12
E C O N O M I C S
TWO HUNDRED GIANT CORPORATIONS, most of them larger than many national economies, have sales that exceed a quarter of the world's economic activity. Philip Morris is larger than New Zealand, and it operates in 170 countries. Instead of creating an integrated global village, these firms are weaving webs of production, consumption and finance that bring economic benefits to, at most, a third of the world's people. Two-thirds of the world (the bottom 20 percent of the rich countries and the bottom 80 percent of the poor countries) are either left out, marginalized or hurt by these webs of activity. Here are five snapshots of the extent of global corporate concentration:
1. Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are corporations; only 49 are countries. Wal-Mart--the number 12 corporation--is bigger than 161 countries, including Israel, Poland and Greece. Mitsubishi is larger than the fourth most populous nation on earth: Indonesia. General Motors is bigger than Denmark. Ford is bigger than South Africa. Toyota is bigger than Norway.
2.The combined sales of the world's Top 200 corporations are far greater than a quarter of the world's economic activity. The Top 200's share of global economic activity has been growing rapidly over the past decade. In 1982, the Top 200 firms had sales that were the equivalent of 24.2 percent of the world's gross domestic product (GDP). Today, that figure has grown to 28.3 percent of world GDP.
3.The Top 200 corporations' combined sales are bigger than the combined economies of all countries minus the biggest 9; that is they surpass the combined economies of 182 countries. At latest count, the world has 191 countries. If you subtract the GDP of the big nine economies -- the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada and China -- the combined GDP's of the other 182 countries is $6.9 trillion. The combined sales of the Top 200 corporations is $7.1 trillion.
4.The Top 200 have almost twice the economic clout of the poorest four-fifths of humanity. The world's economic income and wealth remain highly concentrated among the rich. Indeed, according to the United Nations, some 85 percent of the world's GDP is controlled by the richest fifth of humanity; only 15 percent is controlled by the poorest four-fifths. Hence, the poorer 4.5 billion people in the world account for only $3.9 trillion dollars of economic activity; this is only a little over half the combined revenues of the Top 200's $7.1 trillion.
5. The Top 200 have been net job destroyers in recent years. Their combined global employment is only 18.8 million, which is less than a third of 1 percent of the world's people. The world has just over 5.6 billion people. Of these, around 2.6 billion are in the workforce. Hence, the Top 200 employ less than three-fourths of 1 percent of the world's workers. Of the world's top five employers, four are U.S. (General Motors, Wal-Mart, PepsiCo, and Ford), and one is German (Siemens). If one also includes the public sector in these calculations, the U.S. Postal Service is the world's biggest employer, at 870,160, roughly 160,000 more workers than GM's 709,000 workers.
|47.||Nippon Tel and Tel||$82,002|
|67.||Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi||$55,243|
|76.||Tokyo Electric Power||$50,343|
|86.||UAP-Union es Assurances||$43,929|
|90.||Elf Aquitane Group||$41,729|
|94.||Indust. Bank of Japan||$38,694|
|95.||Deutsche Bank Group||$38,418|
|98.||du Pont de Nemours||$36,508|
SOURCE: CALCULATED FROM DATA IN FORBES MAGAZINE AND WORLD BANK, WORLD DEVELOPMENT REPORT 1996. NOTE: COMPANY SALES FIGURES ARE FOR 1995; COUNTRY GDP FIGURES ARE FOR 1994. FIGURES ARE IN MILLION DOLLARS.