It is no news that the long-term jobs trend in the UK manufacturing industry is in decline. People too often claim that “Manufacturing is dead in the UK!” However, from the ONS conference I attended three weeks ago (blog here), I have also learnt that in 2014, 8% of the UK jobs are in manufacturing. So, have all the manufacturing jobs really been axed since the 1970s? Or is it another urban myth (like how everyone’s campus libraries are slowly sinking……)? Let’s do some True and False myth busting!
1. “Manufacturing jobs are disappearing” - TRUE!
Manufacturing jobs are decreasing, yes, but the magnitude in recent years is not as big as you might think. The overall manufacturing workforce has dropped by 2.3% between 2009 (2.43million) and 2013 (2.37million).
The interactive graph below shows the movement of number of employees in manufacturing between 2009 and 2013 by region.
Over this time, we have seen the number of employees in the West Midlands, Wales and Northern Ireland increase by a relatively small percentage each (all <4%), with most other regions falling at different speeds. The biggest falls we have seen are in Scotland (7.4%), North West (7.3%) and South East (5.9%).
2. “There are no manufacturers left in London” - FALSE!
In fact, that is a far from true statement. Here is a breakdown of the proportion of total manufacturing jobs by region in 2013:
The traditional industrial areas, such as the North West, top the chart with 13% of the total UK manufacturing workforce, closely follow by West Midlands and East Midlands. Not only that there are plenty of people still actively employed in the manufacturing sector, the number of manufacturing employees in London is comparable to that in the North East, both represent 5% of the total UK manufacturing workforce.
3. “Manufacturing jobs are all full-time roles” - FALSE!
We see a mixed picture by region here. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of employees in full-time work dropped in seven out of the twelve regions, with some small growth in employees in the other five regions. In contrast, we have seen growth of employees in part-time work in eight regions, with particular strong growth in the East of England (25.8%) and the West Midlands (19.5%).
Despite the overall contraction in jobs in the manufacturing sector, the West Midlands manages to expand their manufacturing workforce over the years, both in part-time and full-time work. Other regions, such as Yorkshire and Humber, sees job losses mainly from full-time work, with some job number gains in part-time work.