UK manufacturing stays strong despite decline in job numbers

Caitlin Morrison
Follow Caitlin
Workers in the UK manufacturing sector are now better skilled than their 1978 counterparts
MANUFACTURING output in the UK is now higher than it was in the late 1970s, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), scotching perceptions that Britain has lost its manufacturing prowess.

Manufacturing output had managed to increase despite a decline in its share of the economy and falling job numbers, the statistics agency said today. Its share of the economy has fallen from 36 per cent of the economy in 1948 to around 10 percent in 2013.

Productivity in the manufacturing industry has also risen by around 2.8 per cent a year since 1948, compared with 1.5 per cent in the service industry, research from the ONS shows.

ONS chief economist Joe Grice said: “There are several factors at work: a better quality and more skilled workforce; a shift from the production of low- to high-productivity goods; an improvement in the information technology base; more investment in research and development; and a more integrated global economy.

“Exporting firms generally are associated with higher productivity and foreign-owned firms in the UK generally experience higher productivity than domestic firms.”

The data show that while just eight per cent of UK jobs are now in manufacturing, compared with 25 per cent in 1978, workers today are better skilled and more experienced.

The analysis also­ reveals that job numbers have reduced across all manufacturing sub-industries since 1978, although the statistics office noted that a portion of these losses could be attributed to outsourcing.

The fall in jobs in textiles has been particularly strong ,with a reduction of over 80 per cent between 1979 and 2013.

Jobs in the wood and paper sub-industry have been the most resilient of the manufacturing sub-industries, falling 40 per cent.

Related articles