Ruth Sutherland

I wonder, do journalists ever read what they write?

Did you know that 27,000 workers in the manufacturing sector have lost their jobs in the past three months? No reason why you should – it hasn\’t exactly dominated the headlines.

Actually, no I didn\’t, but it doesn\’t surprise me in the least.

Despite being cold-shouldered, and despite the job losses (more than a million since 1997) UK manufacturing is not in terminal decline: far from it.

That\’s why it doesn\’t surprise me. That three month figure is bang on trend for the past decade. And why would that be?

Firms which survived the deindustrialisation of the 1970s and 1980s, or which have been set up since then, are lean and productive; annual productivity growth in UK manufacturing in the first five years of this decade has outstripped that of France, Italy, Spain and Germany.

That\’s why. Productivity in manufacturing has been rising strongly….indeed, this is something that has been going on for, ooooh, two and a half centuries or so. As this producitivty rises we need fewer workers in that sector. No surprise here at all, and the faster the productivity rises (without demand rising similarly) then the more job losses in the sector there will be.

Now if I can piece that together in three minutes on a Sunday morning why can\’t someone being paid to tell us like it is do so in the hours she had to write the article?

4 thoughts on “Ruth Sutherland”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    Hmmm. I think that Britain may have lost a few more manufacturing jobs than just productivity improvements suggests. I think that some people may have moved their factories off shore for cheaper labour.

    Which is not a bad thing. After all it tends to leave Britain with the better parts of the work – the design, the high tech, the precision work.

    Why shouldn’t the dirty, labour intensive, routine work get sent to China? It makes, after all, both countries better. But I think someone needs to make that case as well.

  2. “Hmmm. I think that Britain may have lost a few more manufacturing jobs than just productivity improvements suggests”

    Since we make a higher value of stuff (in real money) than ever before, the evidence would seem to be against you.

  3. You know the answer to your own question, Tim: because she can count on the support and acclaim for her partly-truthful but inherently deceptive rendering by a substantial portion of those many thousands and their dependents and friends. Both the process and the ignorance
    go on and grow luxuriously.

  4. So Much For Subtlety

    john b – “Since we make a higher value of stuff (in real money) than ever before, the evidence would seem to be against you.”

    So there have been no new products invented? No new sectors of manufacturing at all? Every single worker in, say, steel making has been laid off because of productivity improvements and productivity improvements alone?

    How interesting. The things you learn.

    So according to you, we are mining as much coal as we ever did before, just with a lot fewer miners – because after all there has been no decline in coal mining, just productivity improvements?

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