Why did manufacturing decline in the UK? Many people believe that things went downhill after the 1970s and never really recovered thanks to a lack of competitiveness and globalisation.
That picture is only valid, however, if you only consider employment. Manufacturing job loss statistics show that there has been a consistent decline in the number of people employed in the sector over time as the per cent of manufacturing jobs lost to automation increased. If you look at production, though, it’s a different story. UK manufacturing output continues to rise every year.
Deindustrialisation in the UK, therefore, is complicated. Fewer people are employed in manufacturing operations, but output is going up, regardless. Furthermore, we may be at an inflexion point where new technologies like artificial intelligence, lead to increasing numbers of technical specialists going into the sector, reversing the decades-long litany of job losses.
Check out the following manufacturing job loss statistics:
Advances in artificial intelligence mean that a large number of jobs in the UK are at risk of automation, perhaps as high as 1.5 million according to estimates from the Office of National Statistics.
What percentage of jobs have been lost to automation? Historically speaking, almost all. Two hundred years ago, more than 70 per cent of people in the UK were employed in agriculture and 33 per cent in manufacturing. Today, that figure is just 1.5 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.
How many manufacturing jobs have been lost?
Data from GMB show that the UK lost more than 476,500 jobs between 2008 and 2019. In 2008, the UK economy supported more than 3.4 million jobs in the manufacturing sector. By 2018, that figure fell to 2.9 million.
Deindustrialization in the UK is in full swing. UK manufacturing statistics show that outside London, the North West saw the biggest fall in manufacturing employment between 2008 and 2018, with a 21.3 per cent decline in available jobs in the sector. The North East saw manufacturing job losses of 15.9 per cent, and in the West Midlands, there were 32,300 manufacturing jobs lost.
The causes of deindustrialisation in the UK include automation, a shift towards a service sector economy, and more production in the Far East, especially China.
Manufacturing jobs lost since 2000 is higher in London than any other region of the UK. The capital experienced a fall of more than 33 per cent in the number of manufacturing jobs since the turn of the decade.
Employment in the UK manufacturing sector is going down, but the total output is rising. The Manufacturer estimates that by 2021, the UK will have the fifth largest manufacturing sector in the world, up from eighth today, if current growth trends continue. Thus, the answer to the question “When did manufacturing decline in the UK?” is that it didn’t. The negative stories about the UK manufacturing sector mainly come from the number of job losses in the industry, not its size.
UK manufacturing sector employment statistics indicate that more than 169,000 people still work in the country’s car industry, despite losses in recent years. Car manufacturing job losses would have been higher, had it not been for the creation of more than 25,000 new jobs connected to the production of autonomous vehicle systems.
UK manufacturing employment statistics show that steel still provides more than 30,000 jobs. But the value of the industry has fallen by around one quarter since the 1990s. Nonetheless, the steel industry adds more than £9.5 billion to the UK economy every year.
Despite manufacturing sector statistics suggesting that employment in the sector is in chronic decline, manufacturing workers take home considerably more money than the average UK worker. Figures from Make UK indicate that wages average £32,500 per year, around 20% higher than the average for the rest of the country.
The GMB Union estimates that UK manufacturing job losses have led to the loss of more than £2.3 billion worth of wages between 2007 and 2017 in real terms. Every region of the UK has experienced a decline in manufacturing employment.
Manufacturing automation job loss appears to have hit Northern Ireland the least of any region of the UK. Figures suggest that manufacturing job losses are currently running at 4.8% for the decade, meaning that the sector shed just 4,200 over ten years.
While many manufacturing sector UK statistics make for depressing reading, it is not all bad news. The aerospace industry has increased manufacturing productivity by nearly a third in response to high levels of foreign competition. Efforts like this may help reverse UK manufacturing decline.
Manufacturing job loss statistics show that employment in the UK manufacturing industry has fallen consistently over the last decade. The effect, however, is even more pronounced in Scotland. Here, UK manufacturing sector statistics reveal that the country has lost slightly more than one-fifth of its manufacturing workforce in the last ten years, shedding more than 52,500 jobs.
While UK manufacturing decline statistics might be in full swing, the opposite is true of the plastics manufacturing industry. Recent data suggests employment in the sector has grown to 179,000 direct jobs and turns over more than a whopping £23.5 billion annually. It produces more than 1.7 million tonnes of plastic every year and recycles a further 3.3 million tonnes.
Of all the workers in manufacturing in the UK, more than 340,000 are employed in the textile sector. The UK plays host to more than 79,000 textile companies which, collectively, generate more than £11.5 billion for the economy.
Manufacturing job loss statistics paint a dark picture of the state of the UK manufacturing sector. However, they hide success stories in aerospace and plastics production.
They conceal the increased productivity and output of the industry, as well as the fact that people in manufacturing are typically paid more.
The percentage of manufacturing jobs lost to automation may be far lower than the rate of jobs lost due to foreign competition. That, however, may change.