For all of the conversation, confusion, and conjecture about where Amazon ($NASDAQ:AMZN) may open its next headquarters, a look into the company's past hiring practices reveals a much more telling story. It's not just a story of rapid, global expansion with an eye on getting product close to consumers, but it's also a tale of tax subterfuge followed by a talent-pool echo chamber.
No, really. Stick with us here.
It should come as little surprise that Amazon, the most valuable company in the world (as of today), hires a lot of people around the world. It hires not just for new corporate offices, but also for warehouses, logistics, and retail.
Currently, Amazon is hiring for 32,500 people around the world. That doesn't include its sub-brands such as Whole Foods, Zappos, Twitch.tv, or Ring. Around this time last year, it was hiring for 17,500 people — representing an increase in hiring of 54%.
Increases in hiring have been on pace throughout the world with few exceptions, for Amazon. In Japan, for instance, hiring has stalled a bit. But it's made up for that in countries like China, where it has fired up hiring to the tune of 475%. The reason for that hiring uptick is likely due to the plentiful talent pool in China, and it comes despite anxiety over tariffs.
But in other parts of the world, Amazon hiring has accelerated as much — or more.
Current Amazon openings throughout the world are plotted in the map below (without the United States for the sake of scale).
India and Germany, with their massive talent pools, rank high with 2,150 and 1,240 openings, respectively. But what you don't see on the map, given the size of the country, is Luxembourg, nestled between Germany and Belgium, with 606 openings. Just a year ago, openings in the small landlocked country were half that.
Why the love from Amazon for Luxembourg? The Tax Justice Network calls the tiny country the "Death Star of Financial Secrecy". When Amazon first launched operations in Luxembourg in 2003, European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker personally offered to help Amazon when it came to things like taxes. "If you encounter problems which you don't seem to be able to resolve," he told Bob Comfort, Amazon's head of tax, "please come back and tell me. I'll try to help."
Eventually the financial courtship ran afoul of the EU, who ordered Amazon to repay €250m and an additional 3% "digital tax" on its revenues moving forward.
But by now, Amazon is a fixture in Luxembourg, employing hundreds in what has become Amazon's European hub. Meanwhile, the country has become known as a place to move to for highly-talented individuals. It has the third-highest per-capita GDP in the world ($106,705), behind only Qatar.
It seems that regardless of what happened with the EU and Amazon's preferential treatment, the company is there to stay, and hiring trends show a doubled-down commitment to the country by Bezos and co.
But Luxembourg is not alone when it comes to Amazon's hiring growth in countries that have treated it well when it comes to taxes.
In Ireland, Amazon job openings have swelled to 410 — the highest levels we've observed since 2016 (and likely the highest yet). Last year at this time, Amazon had 250 openings posted in Ireland.
The rise is partially due to Amazon's worldwide hiring efforts, as mentioned, but they're also part of the same double-stroke engine. Ireland has been a tax haven for corporations for decades. It infamously allowed Apple to pay a maximum tax rate of just 1% while the usual rate was 12.5%. Amazon surely came into the country with a similar sweetheart deal.
But as the G20 aims to close these loopholes with digital taxes that will extend to Ireland as part of the EU, Amazon's Irish luck may run out. The company likely won't care: pretax profits for Amazon's Irish unit increased 30.5% last year to €39.46 million.
And Ireland looks to be taking a page from Luxembourg's play book: create homegrown talent in addition to making immigration for talented professionals easy as a way to keep companies like Amazon on the hiring run.
"More than a quarter of a million people in Ireland are employed directly or indirectly by US companies," American Chamber of Commerce president Barry O'Sullivan told the Irish Times.
“We need to ensure that our education system is truly equipping our young people for roles they will take up in the digital era. We also need to ensure that those who want to come to work and live here are able to do so with ease. These are critical issues.” he added.
Even with the EU on its tail, Ireland looks as though plans to keep companies like Amazon and Apple in its back yard just as Luxembourg has.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.