Britain’s manufacturing industry has fallen to ninth in the world behind France, reversing a recovery in its performance since the financial crash. The UK’s total manufacturing output stayed ahead of Brazil and Indonesia but slipped below France and remained well adrift of Germany in fourth position and Italy in seventh at the end of 2016. The figures show a troubling decline in the UK’s international standing after the Brexit vote and emphasises the uphill task of regaining its position of seventh achieved in 2007. China kept the top spot ahead of the US and Japan while South Korea and India were fifth and sixth respectively.
Recent data shows the UK’s manufacturing sector being starved of investment funds and losing momentums uncertainty persists surrounding the UK’s relationship with the EU from next year. A report in June found that the sector had lost 600,000 jobs in the past 10 years to leave it employing fewer than 3 million workers. In 2007, the UK supported 3.5m permanent and temporary manufacturing jobs: more than 12% of all British employment – but by 2016 that had fallen to 2.9m, or 9.2% of total employment, said the GMB trade union, which published the report.
The EEF, the manufacturer’s trade body that published the figures, said the sector “punched above its weight” and was of vital importance to the UK’s economic health. It said workers average pay was higher than the national average and that productivity growth remained strong.
A study showed that jobs in the sector paid an average of £32,500, above the national average estimated by the ONS at £27,271, rising to almost £40,000 for a skilled post in a car factory.
The car industry offered the highest average pay at £39,800, beating the chemicals and pharmaceuticals industries into second place with an average salary of £39,500. The food and drink industry was the worst for pay, offering an average salary of just £27,600. But while the electronics sector achieved a 13.5% increase in productivity and electrical equipment makers gained 12.3% between 2012 and 2017, food and drink producers saw a decline in productivity of 1.5%.
More than 390,000 workers are employed in the food manufacturing sector compared with 180,000 workers in the car industry. Machinery and metals manufacturers also suffered declines in productivity of 2% and 3% respectively since 2012. Productivity, which measures the amount produced by each worker per hour, is seen as a crucial measure of an industry’s success and its ability to increase workers’ wages.