Layoffs at Google: What is the AI Conspiracy Theory?

Why Google is laying off its employees? Is AI really responsible for taking away your job? What are the tech majors in layoff race and why they are doing it? Find out answers to all these questions in this detailed analysis of Layoffs at Google!

Shreshtha Verma
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In a strategic move, Google is undergoing a restructuring of its finance team, signaling a shift that involves both layoffs and relocations. According to an internal memo, the precise number of job cuts remains undisclosed, but the impact will be felt by employees in both the United States and overseas.

As part of this restructuring, Google plans to establish "hubs" aimed at centralizing operations, with key locations including India, Mexico, Ireland, Atlanta, and Chicago. This initiative underscores Google's ongoing efforts to optimize its global operations and enhance efficiency.

The restructuring comes amidst a series of layoffs at Google, reflecting broader industry trends characterized by a slowdown in advertising growth and a concerted emphasis on investments in artificial intelligence (AI). This move aligns with Google's strategic priorities as it navigates evolving market dynamics.

While a spokesperson for Google confirmed the news, specific details regarding the layoffs and relocations remain undisclosed, underscoring the company's discretion regarding internal restructuring efforts.

Why Google is on a Layoff Spree?

Google's recent spree of layoffs is indicative of several underlying factors driving the company's strategic decisions. One key factor is the evolving landscape of the technology industry, particularly the increasing importance of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies.

As Google positions itself to remain at the forefront of technological innovation, there is a growing emphasis on reallocating resources to bolster its AI capabilities. This entails not only investing in AI research and development but also restructuring internal operations to align with the company's AI-driven objectives.

Additionally, the slowdown in advertising growth has prompted Google to reassess its operational efficiency and cost structure. By streamlining operations and centralizing key functions in strategic hubs, Google aims to enhance agility and adaptability in the face of shifting market dynamics.

Layoffs at Google

In tracing the trajectory of layoffs at Google, the year 2024 commenced with a disheartening trend for its employees. Without hesitation, the tech giant announced significant layoffs right at the outset of the New Year. Across various verticals, Google initiated these massive layoffs within the very first week of 2024. CEO Sundar Pichai's explicit communication to employees about the possibility of further layoffs throughout the year 2024 has now materialized with the recent announcement of layoffs last week. While Google has not disclosed the exact number of affected employees, reports suggest a predominant impact on the finance division.

This recurrent narrative of layoffs forms a sad legacy at Google. The company's pattern of commencing the year with workforce reductions was evident in 2023 as well, with a substantial layoff affecting 12,000 employees in January of that year. This event marked the largest layoff in Google's history, underscoring the cyclical nature of organizational restructuring within the company.

Tech Layoffs in 2024

The industry-wide shakeup that commenced in 2022 and extended into 2023 persists into the current year. So far, from 2023 to March 2024, the tech industry has seen 272,761 so far.

Month Employees Laid Off
January 2023 89,554
February 2023 40,021
March 2023 37,823
April 2023 20,014
May 2023 14,928
June 2023 10,958
July 2023 10,589
August 2023 9,545
September 2023 4,632
October 2023 7,331
November 2023 6,956
December 2023 7,159
January 2024 19,350
February 2024 15,589
March 2024 7,322

While the scale of losses in 2024 may not match those of previous years, they remain noteworthy, with prominent companies such as Pixar, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, and TikTok among those affected. Whether this year's layoff trends mirror those of the previous year remains uncertain. In 2023, layoffs slowed during the summer months before intensifying once more as winter approached. It remains to be seen if a similar pattern will unfold in 2024. However, if we talk particularly about India, the first quarter of 2024 saw a drop in layoffs compared to same quarter of 2023. 

You may also like to read: Good News For Tech Employees! Finally A Decline In Layoffs

Layoffs at Big Four Take the Lead

The recent wave of layoffs isn't limited to the tech industry; even the prestigious Big Four - PwC, EY, Deloitte and KPMG - accounting firms are feeling the pinch. In March 2024, Deloitte announced 900 job losses in the UK in recent months, or about 3% of its workforce, following similar cuts in the US. Experts believe that this action by Deloitte will surely impact the future decisions of the other three accounting firms. 

In December 2023, an EY senior partner, addressing the firm's US partners and staff, delivered a sobering message, signaling the need to cut costs amidst slowing growth and excess capacity. This marked a departure from the norm, as job cuts extended to the upper echelons of the firm, affecting dozens of US partners. Similarly, KPMG witnessed approximately 5% cuts to its US workforce, including partners, during the summer 2023.

While layoffs among partners are less common in the industry, the challenging economic landscape has compelled firms to take drastic measures. The Big Four, comprising EY, KPMG, Deloitte, and PwC, collectively laid off thousands of US workers in 2023.  

You may also like to read: Not Just Big Four: These Are the Top 10 Indian Employers Sought After

The Fear of AI Taking Away Jobs

As layoffs become a global phenomenon, particularly prevalent in the tech industry, a pervasive fear of artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a convenient scapegoat for corporate restructuring. Tech giants, in particular, have been quick to attribute workforce reductions to the inexorable advance of AI technologies.

Amidst the backdrop of economic uncertainties and market fluctuations, companies have increasingly turned to AI-driven solutions to optimize operations, enhance efficiency, and remain competitive in a rapidly evolving landscape. While AI undoubtedly offers transformative potential, its implementation has also raised concerns about its impact on employment.

Tech companies, including Google and others, have been vocal about the role of AI in driving workforce reductions. The narrative often revolves around the notion that AI technologies are automating tasks previously performed by humans, thereby rendering certain roles redundant. Consequently, layoffs are framed as a necessary response to the evolving demands of the digital age.

The AI Conspiracy Theory Behind Layoffs

However, critics argue that the portrayal of AI as the sole culprit oversimplifies a complex issue. Amidst the wave of layoffs sweeping through the tech industry, experts have voiced concerns about a deeper, more insidious motive lurking behind the scenes. While tech giants like Google attribute workforce reductions to the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), some analysts believe there's a larger conspiracy at play.

"The rhetoric around AI is extremely misleading here, and in general, when we look at excuses for layoffs. These companies will certainly be moving to lower-cost labor markets and organizing retirement drives -- AI is nowhere near developed enough to actually replace human workers," writes Kelsey Ray, Co-founder at Obsidian Identifiy. 

Ray believes that unfortunately, this will motivate smaller organisations attempt to imitate such moves in a ripple effect.

Referring to Google's layoff memo, Dylan Jones who is the Managing Partner at Boldsquare, wrote, "As someone who has probably written thousands of corporate memos, I’m always intrigued by the way that language changes and how companies introduce new euphemisms and phrases to say something that they believe has become unpopular with internal or external stakeholders."

He points out how Google announced restructuring in its finance division to power investment growth in AI. Rather than talk about offshoring, Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat instead talks about establishing finance “hubs” in locations that just coincidentally happen to be in lower labor cost markets than San Francisco, such as Bangalore, Mexico City and Dublin.

"To be fair to them, they’re also creating hubs in Chicago and Atlanta so the offshoring phrase wouldn’t have worked anyway. But at the same time, it’s also OK to say “hey, we’re going to establish stronger finance locations in lower labor cost markets because San Francisco has got too expensive, and we need to spend more money elsewhere,” he said.

Is AI-taking away jobs?

The impact of AI on employment is a multifaceted issue that defies simple categorization. While some argue that AI is leading to job displacement through automation and efficiency gains, others contend that it is creating new opportunities and transforming industries. The truth likely lies somewhere in between, with the effects varying across sectors and job functions.

Slowdown & Layoffs: Embracing Resilience Amidst Layoffs and Funding Woes

Amidst the landscape of job cuts and uncertainties, one undeniable reality emerges: slowdowns and layoffs have become integral threads in the tapestry of the tech industry. The startup realm, in particular, weathered a harsh funding winters in 2023. From January 2023 to November 2023, the Indian startup sector recorded a drop of 65.8% in fuding. Although there's been a slight improvement since then, the lingering effects of the slowdown are evident, casting a shadow not only over major tech corporations but also impacting startups.

It's a reality that employees across various sectors are grappling with, echoing the sentiment of a famous Hindi dialogue, "Ye dukh kahe khatam nahi hota" (This sorrow seems never-ending). In the face of such uncertainties, definitive answers are elusive.

Instead of dwelling on the enigma of whether AI is to blame for these shifts, the focus shifts to adaptation and resilience. It's about finding ways to navigate these turbulent waters, to innovate and evolve amidst the storm. As industries transform and reshape, the resilience of the workforce becomes paramount. After all, in the ever-changing landscape of the tech world, the only constant is change. So how to make sure that you're job is secured amidst the difficult times? Or if you have already lost the job, how to find a new and stable job? The answer lies in skilling, upskilling and reskilling! What is it all about, read in the section below!

How to secure your job or find a new job?

In the face of ongoing uncertainties and the evolving landscape of employment, it's essential to proactively take steps to secure your current job or explore new opportunities. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Assess Your Skills and Knowledge: Take stock of your current skills and identify areas where you may need to upskill or reskill to stay relevant in your field. Consider the emerging trends and technologies impacting your industry and seek opportunities to acquire new competencies.
  • Invest in Lifelong Learning: Embrace a mindset of continuous learning and professional development. Explore online courses, workshops, and certifications that can enhance your skills and expand your knowledge base. Platforms like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, and Udemy offer a wide range of courses across various domains.
  • Networking and Building Connections: Cultivate and nurture your professional network both online and offline. Attend industry events, join professional associations, and engage with peers and mentors in your field. Networking can provide valuable insights, support, and potential job opportunities.
  • Stay Updated and Adapt: Keep abreast of industry trends, market developments, and technological advancements. Be open to adapting to change and exploring new roles or career paths that align with your interests and aspirations.
  • Seek Feedback and Mentorship: Solicit feedback from colleagues, supervisors, or mentors to identify areas for improvement and growth. Mentorship can provide guidance, support, and invaluable insights into navigating career challenges and opportunities.
  • Explore Diverse Opportunities: Consider exploring opportunities beyond your current role or company. Be open to freelance work, part-time gigs, or remote positions that offer flexibility and new experiences. Platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, and can connect you with freelance opportunities.
  • Embrace Resilience and Agility: Cultivate resilience and adaptability in the face of uncertainty. Develop the ability to pivot, learn from setbacks, and bounce back stronger. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and innovation.

By prioritizing skilling, upskilling, and reskilling, you can position yourself for success in a dynamic and ever-changing job market. Remember, the key to navigating uncertain times lies in embracing lifelong learning, staying agile, and being proactive in shaping your career journey.

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