Over 300,000 permanent staff worldwide, representing around 20% of total headcount have been “let go” at Panasonic, Sony, Sharp, Toshiba and other Japanese electronics companies over the past five years, according to analysis by Toyo Keizai.
Panasonic, Sony, Hitachi, NEC, Fujitsu, Toshiba and Sharp are all represented in the 10 companies who lost the most employees globally and the only company that isn’t electronics related amongst those 10 is Daiichi Sankyo – because of acquiring and then selling off Ranbaxy, the Indian generics drug manufacturer. The other companies making up the 10 are Renesas and Mabuchi Motors – both B2B electronics companies.
Panasonic lost nearly a third of its employees -117,417. Their turnover also shrank (but not by a third) over the same period and they reduced the number of consolidated companies (subsidiaries) from 633 to 474. Only around 4% (10,000 – of which around 700 in UK, 3000 in Germany) of its employees are based in Europe anyway, so it’s clear the bulk of the reduction happened in Japan and China.
Sony was second, with a reduction of 42,900 employees, representing around 26% of employees in 2010/11. This was largely through restructuring its electronics business in Japan and North America, with the film, music and finance segments remaining stable. Sony has also restructured its electronics business in Europe, losing around 40% (2,000) of its headcount (UK & Ireland = 22% reduction from 1,386 to 1,061, Western Europe 50% reduction from 3,271 to 1,635 and Eastern Europe only 11% down, from 423 to 376) The total of Sony’s employees in Europe including film, music and computer entertainment represents around 10% of the global total of 125,300.
Renesas – the semi-conductor manufacturer which was formed out of bits of NEC, Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric has lost over half its employees – 27,470. Headcount is now 19,160 with the bulk of its European employees being located in the UK (805 employees in 2012, now down to 633) and Germany (831 employees).
Hitachi‘s headcount reduction was only 7%, but as it was 7% of over 350,000 people, this still put it in the top 10. In the UK and Europe by contrast, Hitachi has grown due to acquisitions and expansion of their rail, consulting, finance and nuclear power businesses.
NEC cut its employees by 15% (17,114) and Fujitsu by 9% (15,821). Fujitsu’s employee numbers in the UK (where it remains the largest Japanese employer) over the past 5 years rose from 10,030 in 2012 to 11,765 in 2015, but a further restructuring has led to headcount dipping below 10,000 in 2016. The pattern across Fujitsu’s EMEA (or now EMEIA) region is similar – having been 31,000 five years’ ago, then reduced, then expanded again, and now another restructuring since 2015/6 to the current total of 28,707.
Toshiba has only cut 7% (14,829) of its headcount so far but this will change with the spin off of Toshiba Medical Systems to Canon and household appliances to Midea as well as the controversial sale of its chip business. There have been cuts to other businesses in Europe, with employee numbers dropping around 10% 2015/6.
Sharp, owned by Taiwanese company Foxconn/Hon Hai as of last year, cut 22% of its employees (12,069) over the five year period. Much of its consumer electronics business has been licensed to other manufacturers, resulting in the closure of Sharp Electronics UK and a new company, Sharp Business Systems being set up with its headquarters in the UK and business units headquartered in London (information systems), Hamburg (energy solutions) and Munich (visual solutions).
Brexit looks to accelerate these trends – companies such as Sharp, which were restructuring anyway, are using Brexit as a further stimulus. To ensure “maximum supply chain efficiency” Sharp has already transferred its European stock and logistics operations from the UK to its subsidiary in France (to be managed by its German subsidiary) in September 2016. At the same time it sold its energy solutions business in the UK to its German subsidiary and closed down Sharp Telecommunications UK (22 employees). Overall Sharp’s employees in the UK look to drop from 617 in 2015 to 553 in 2017, plus the factory in Wales which manufactures microwave ovens – licensed to Turkish company Vestel.
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