Google parent Alphabet to lay off 12,000 workers as AI focus intensifies 


By Reuters and published by CNA

GOOGLE’S parent Alphabet Inc said on Friday (Jan. 20) it is cutting about 12,000 jobs, or 6 percent of its workforce, as the technology sector reels from layoffs and companies stake their futures on artificial intelligence (AI).

Alphabet’s shares rose almost 4 percent in pre-market trading.

The cuts come at a delicate moment for the US company, which has long been the leader in key areas of AI research.

Alphabet now faces a challenge from Microsoft Corp in a branch of tech that can, for instance, create virtually any content a user can think up and type in a text box.

Microsoft this week said recession worries were forcing it to shed 10,000 jobs, less than 5 percent of its workforce, and would focus on imbuing its products with more AI going forward – a point Alphabet’s CEO Sundar Pichai echoed in a staff memo.

Amazon also recently announced that it would lay off 18,000 people, Salesforce is cutting 10 percent of its staff and Facebook parent Meta has announced 11,000 job cuts. Apple is the rare Big Tech company not to have announced significant layoffs in recent months.

Pichai told staff in a memo that the firm had reviewed its products, people and priorities, leading to job cuts across geographies and tech.

“Over the past two years we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth. To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today,” he said. 

“The fact that these changes will impact the lives of Googlers weighs heavily on me, and I take full responsibility for the decisions that led us here.”

Pichai became Alphabet CEO in 2019.

Still, he said, Google was gearing up “to share some entirely new experiences for users, developers and businesses,” and the company has “a substantial opportunity in front of us with AI across our products”.

Alphabet’s job losses affect teams across the company including recruiting and some corporate functions, as well as some engineering and products teams.

The layoffs are global and impact US staff immediately.

In response to CNA’s queries about employees in Singapore, a spokesperson for Google referred to Pichai’s staff memo.

Alphabet has already emailed affected employees, the memo said, while the process will take longer in other countries due to local employment laws and practices.

In the memo, Pichai said US employees would be paid during the full notification period – a minimum of 60 days.

A severance package starting at 16 weeks’ salary, and two weeks for every additional yer at Google, will also be provided. 

Alphabet will continue to pay 2022 bonuses and any remaining vacation time employees might have.

The company will also offer six months of “healthcare, job placement services and immigration support” for those affected.

Alphabet will also “accelerate” at least 16 weeks of Google Stock Units vesting, said Pichai, adding that employees outside of the US will be supported in line with local practices.

The news comes during a period of economic uncertainty as well as technological promise.

“I am confident about the huge opportunity in front of us thanks to the strength of our mission, the value of our products and services, and our early investments in AI,” Pichai said. 


Top: A woman passes the logo from the web search engine provider Google during the digital society festival ‘re:publica’, at the Arena Berlin in Berlin, Germany on June 9, 2022. Photo: Reuters/Annegret Hilse and published by CNA

Front Page: A person walks by the Google booth at the Las Vegas Convention Centre before the start of the CES tech show, on Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, in Las Vegas, USA.  Photo: AP Photo/John Locher and published by Euronews

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