In 1978, 25 per cent of UK jobs were in the manufacturing sector. By 2014, only eight per cent of jobs remained, according to ONS statistics. At the same time, however, productivity has been rising in the sector, now well-known for defying the odds.One can’t help but remember the episode of Top Gear where the team paraded British cars down Pall Mall to display the UK’s manufacturing might. “We’re always being told that Britain’s manufacturing industry is dead, and that we don’t make anything anymore,” Jeremy Clarkson said. “Turns out, we do.” Read more about Top Gear:
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One of the British economy’s greatest deficits is in pride, according to Bilimoria, who suggested that the nation has struggled to articulate the strengths of British industry to the world. This stunts our economic growth, he said. It is a subject that Bilimoria is keen to explore. Speaking at Value Creation, a Real Business event exclusively focused on unlocking growth, he claimed that the hallmark “Made in Britain” has been an assurance of excellence. Shorthand for tradition, heritage and integrity. However, it is a label that is woefully under-utilised. There are many ways for businesses to boost this reputation, he explained. One such method is to rely on its quality manufacturing. Britain has a number of bold strategies to boost manufacturing exports to the wider world, including the UKTI’s GREAT Campaign, which showcased Britain’s vast food manufacturing industry at the Milan EXPO and is proven to yield phenomenal returns. However, he suggested that the Treasury needed to do whatever it could to bolster these displays of pride in British exports by setting a target to raise the manufacturing sector’s share of UK GDP. He further emphasised that it had dropped from 30 per cent to little over ten per cent since the 1970s. “We need a vision similar to that of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign, which aims to increase the share of manufacturing in the country’s GDP from 16 per cent to 25 per cent.” he said.
The campaign, he explained, was important given that manufacturing was “absolutely key” when it came to Cobra Beer. The UK, however, has been neglecting the industry for many years, he said.
Bilimoria noted that not only did Modi’s focus create more jobs, it was essentially tied to creating skills. A similar approach is therefore vital to rebalancing the UK economy and boosting economic productivity, he explained.“Boosting the manufacturing sector starts with a broad strategy to increase the skills of the workforce and the investment in R&D to ensure Britain continues to make the things that the world demands,” he said. Though, in Britain, manufacturing takes a smaller share of GDP than other industries, the sector makes up 45 per cent of all our exports. A strong manufacturing sector therefore plays a vital role in increasing the strength of Britain’s bonds with worldwide partners, he said. He suggested that Osborne would no doubt be aware that the UK invests less in R&D as a percentage of GDP than the US, EU, and the whole of the OECD, and this deficit is reflected in Britain’s poor labour productivity performance. By Shané Schutte
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