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Amazon Touts Massive European Jobs Boost

January 22, 2016, 11:47 AM UTC
Amazon Video's 67th Primetime Emmy Celebration
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Founder and CEO of Jeff Bezos arrives at Amazon Video's 67th Primetime Emmy Celebration at The Standard Hotel on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)
Photograph by Amanda Edwards — WireImage/Getty Images

This week’s hot trend in Europe is for big U.S. tech companies to wave around all the jobs they’re creating, particularly if they happen to be under massive regulatory scrutiny.

Amazon created 10,000 new jobs in Europe last year and is promising “several thousand more” in 2016, the retail behemoth said Friday. A day before, Apple used the announcement of its new app-development center in Naples to suggest it had created a whopping 1.4 million jobs in Europe, mostly through fuelling the app economy.

Apple even created a special webpage to prove its point.

It just so happens that both Apple and Amazon are involved in investigations over alleged illegal state aid, in the form of favorable tax deals from Ireland in the case of Apple, and Luxembourg in the case of Amazon. If the European Commission decides those countries did break the rules, both companies may find themselves having to pay billions of euros in back taxes.

Amazon, meanwhile, is also the subject of a Commission investigation into its contractual clauses for the distribution of e-books — EU regulators suspect the firm is trying to stymie its rivals by banning publishers from offering better terms to those competitors.

Still, the fact that its practices are under scrutiny doesn’t change the fact that Amazon has created a lot of jobs, currently totalling around 40,000 in Europe. The 10,000 permanent European jobs created in 2015 (Amazon had not provided a net job-add figure at the time of writing) represented a record for the company, and a 50 percent increase over 2014.

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This year’s crop will come in fields such as voice-recognition research and development, the rollout of more cloud infrastructure, and of course those bread-and-butter roles in Amazon’s fulfilment centers.

“We are seeing stronger demand than ever from our customers all across Europe, and we see lots more opportunity across Amazon’s businesses to invent and invest for the future,” said Amazon EU retail chief Xavier Garambois in a statement. So far, Amazon has invested over €15 billion ($16 billion) in Europe since 2010, and currently operates more than 80 facilities across the region.

As for Apple, whose CEO Tim Cook visited Brussels on Thursday to lobby over the tax affair, the company claims to be responsible for 1.2 million app-economy jobs in Europe. That figure is based on analysis by the Washington-based Progressive Policy Institute, which also said earlier this month that Apple was responsible for over 1.4 million app-related jobs in the U.S.

As Don Reisinger pointed out at the time, such claims are debatable and hard to back up. Experts, such as Carl Frey and Michael Osborne of the Oxford Martin School in England, also note that many digital companies produce far fewer jobs than those they destroy by disrupting older industries.

But either way, touting job-creation stats is unlikely to sway regulators such as the unflappable EU competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager. As she said last week, the Ireland-Apple and Luxembourg-Amazon tax probes are going ahead at full steam.