Hammered by the downturn, today the sector makes up just over 13% of the nation’s GDP and employs 2.6 million people, compared with 4 million a decade ago. Yet now, with recovery beginning but looking fragile, politicians are seeking to show their support for manufacturing by making pre-election pledges. Alistair Darling’s budget last month promised help for smaller firms struggling to attract finance and measures to ensure British industry can “realise its global potential”, while the Conservatives are promising corporation tax cuts to “make Britain an attractive place for manufacturers to do business” and help for firms who want to run apprenticeships.
At the same time, claims that UK manufacturing is dead, or at least not worth saving in our 21st-century economy, are finally being drowned out, now that Britain has realised that over-reliance on any one sector can end in disaster. With taxpayer anger still festering over bailed-out banks, the previous focus on financial services no longer seems so wise.
“The myth that we can exist without paying our way in the world has been exposed,” says Steve Radley, director of policy at the manufacturers’ organisation EEF. “A rebalanced economy with a focus on an innovative, high-value manufacturing sector will ensure we are much better placed to enjoy the benefits of higher living standards and higher-quality jobs.”
Rebalanced economy? Looks like that’s going to become a familar phrase.
EEF’s webpage is here. The association bills itself as “EEF — the manufacturers’ organisation.”
The National Association of Manufacturers often works with CBI, the Confederation of British Industry.
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