Well-known French midget and political chancer, Nicolas Sarkozy, certainly hit a raw nerve when he announced that the UK “has no industry any more”.
Predictably the Daily Mail went ape-shit, and its website recorded a staggering 1,670 posts from readers on the story. The debate quickly degenerated into the usual “France wouldn't be there at all if we hadn't bailed them out in two world wars” kind of argument (and don't bother posting that sort of comment here, will you please, because it's boring and we aren't interested), but not before a considerable number of readers had agreed with Sarkozy's ignorance.
It is, of course, commonly said in this country that “we don't make anything any more”. You hear it in pubs, round the dinner table, it's even voiced in the Grumpy Old Household occasionally, though not by the GOS himself.
The GOS decided to investigate and sort this out once and for all. This is what he found ...
This Wikipedia article has the UK eighth in the world in 2011, after the USA, China, Japan, Germany, Russia, Brazil and Italy, and one ahead of France.
This website has the UK seventh, after USA, China, Japan, India, Germany and Russia.
The figures for 2009 on this website have the UK fifth, ahead of France, India and Italy, while WiseGeek.com says that in 2007, the top manufacturing countries besides the United States were China ($1,106 billion USD), Japan ($926 billion USD), Germany ($670 billion USD), the Russian Federation ($362 billion USD), Italy ($345 billion USD), the United Kingdom ($342 billion USD), France ($296 billion USD), South Korea ($241 billion USD), Canada ($218 billion USD), Spain ($208 billion USD), and Brazil ($206 billion USD).
We presume that the reasons for the variations between these rankings are (a) the changes from year to year, and (b) the criteria that are used to assemble the figures. There is much debate among economists about the various measures of manufacturing output and what they mean. For instance, there is gross total output, the total of all value added to manufactured goods throughout the manufacturing process, the per capita manufacturing output, the manufacturing output as a percentage of the GDP, etc.
Nevertheless it is obvious that by any measure the UK is still in the world's top ten manufacturing countries, and the common assertion that “we don't make anything any more” is ignorant rubbish. So is the view that the UK is more dependent on the financial sector than it is on manufacturing. In a recent report by Andrew Haldane, Executive Director for Financial Stability at the Bank of England, we find that “As a share of whole economy output, the direct contribution of the UK financial sector rose to 9% in the last quarter of 2008”. Got that? 9% is a very significant amount, certainly, but the cart ain't driving the horse yet by a long shot.
The reason we think “we don't make anything any more” is simple: we don't see the evidence with our own eyes because we don't have much of the obvious, high-profile heavy industry we used to – no vast coal mines, enormous smelters and belching chimneys, no serried ranks of new (and usually rather crap) cars waiting to go to the dealers, no triumphant ship launches and so on. Instead, like many other western countries, we have concentrated on the hi-tech industries that make heavy demands on research and development. To put it crudely, we make the clever and expensive stuff, and leave the production of mass-produced goods that require a low-skill workforce to countries like China who can do it cheaper. China may make all the washing machines, but we make the machines that make the machines that make the washing machines!
Incidentally and not entirely relevant, let's lay to rest that other misconception, about our dependence on the EU as a market. Most of our goods do not go to the EU. The statistics make it seem as though they do, but that's because almost all shipping routes out of the UK go first to Rotterdam which is in the EU, and then pass on to other countries which aren't.
All pretty simple, and it took just twenty minutes on Google to work it out. What a shame more people (and politicians) can't be arsed to investigate the facts before they shoot their mouths off.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
Copyright © 2011 The GOS