Fortune's Global 500 is an exclusive club—Less than 1% of all people worldwide work for a firm on the list

Fortune’s 34th Global 500 list—an annual ranking of the world’s largest companies by revenue that was released today—highlights some stark divides. 

One is geographic: Businesses in this year’s top 500 are heavily based in the U.S., Europe, and China. Relatively few are based in Asian countries outside of China and Japan, and none were in Africa. 

Another divide is in terms of employment. Combined, Global 500 companies employ a staggering 70.1 million people worldwide. But they only represent 2% of the global workforce or 1% of the world’s population—meaning that workers for Global 500 companies are part of an exclusive club, so to speak.  

China accounts for over a quarter of this year’s Global 500 with 135 companies on the list. Chinese power company State Grid led domestically at No. 3 overall followed by oil firm China National Petroleum at No. 5. Japan followed in Asia with 41 companies, with carmakers Toyota (No. 19) and Mitsubishi (No. 45). However, Japan’s presence on the list has shrunk over the years, dropping 72% since 1995 when it had 149 companies.

Other Asian countries account for less than 8% of the list combined, with only 39 companies from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand

There are no African countries on this year’s rankings, reflecting the continent’s still-developing business sectors. South Africa had some representation from 1990 to 1994, until Fortune added service companies to the list and therefore pushed out the continent’s companies. 

In terms of number of employees, Global 500 businesses are a major source of jobs. However, it’s less so when compared to the global workforce of 3.4 billion. In any case, working for a Global 500 company puts employees in an exclusive club, though not necessarily a high paying one. The list of top companies includes many that employ tens of thousands of lower-paid retail, warehouse, and blue-collar workers.

Movers and shakers

Walmart led this year’s Global 500, as it has for the past 10 years, with $611 billion in revenue. However, it’s in danger of losing its coveted spot.

Saudi Aramco, the oil titan, jumped four places on this year’s ranking to No. 2—and came close to dethroning Walmart with over $603 billion in sales. Due to the Ukraine War’s impact on energy prices and its ability to cheaply pump oil from its massive reserves, Saudi Aramco was the most profitable company ever on the list, earning $159 billion last year. 

Top ranked American firms include Walmart, Amazon (No. 4), Exxon Mobil (No. 7), Apple (No. 8), and UnitedHealth Group (No. 10). Among the top European firms are Britain’s Shell (No. 9), Germany’s Volkswagen (No. 15), Germany’s Uniper (No. 16), France’s TotalEnergies (No. 20), and Switzerland’s Glencore (No. 21).

TD Synnex, from California, experienced the biggest rise in rank, moving up 236 places to No. 215 this year. Meanwhile, Switzerland’s Zurich Insurance Group, which has been on the Global 500 for 29 years, had the most significant decline, dropping 179 places to No. 358.

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