Exports are up, but Brexit could have a sting in the tail
MakeUK, the rebranded EEF and vocal supporter of the UK’s manufacturing sector, has published a new fact card providing details of the industry’s health – and very interesting reading it makes, too. Produced in association with Santander Corporate and Commercial, it highlights a sector that is running ahead of the wider economy in terms of productivity growth, and where average pay is also outpacing the whole economy. Productivity growth was 3.1% on average between 2012 and 2017 for manufacturing (although there are significant differences between different industries), compared with 2.4% for the services sector and 2.4% for the wider economy over the same period. Average pay within the manufacturing sector is now £32,467, some £3,358 higher than the whole economy and £4,188 higher than services. All manufacturing sub-sectors except food and drink have higher average wages than the service sector.
Manufacturing represents 10% of UK output, and ranks Britain as the ninth largest manufacturer in the world. However this represents a drop in position from the previous year, and puts us behind the likes not only of Germany in Europe (fourth in the table) but also Italy and France. China is the largest manufacturer in the world by output, followed by the US and Japan. South Korea and India rank fifth and sixth respectively behind Germany. Completing the top 10 is Brazil.
UK exports – 45% of output – total £275bn, but there is a sting in the tail when we think about Brexit: Some £115bn of those exports go into Europe, including £33bn to Germany, £21bn to France, £17bn to the Irish Republic, £13bn to the Netherlands, and almost £11bn to Belgium. The only non-European countries in the UK’s top 10 export destinations are the US (£43bn), China (£12bn) and the UAE (£6.8bn). It surely highlights the importance of avoiding a no-deal Brexit, and those believing that trade deals with the likes of India could mitigate a loss of trade with Europe will likely be surprised that we export far less to India than to Belgium.
Looking at the sector as a whole, it employs some 2.7 million people. Productivity growth is highest in the electronics sector (13.5%), followed by electrical equipment (12.3%), chemicals and pharmaceuticals (10.2%), automotive (9.2%) and rubber, plastics and non-metallic minerals (6.8%). But a number of sectors are seeing drops in productivity – notably food and beverage (-1.5%), machinery (-2.0%) and metals (-3.0%). Looking at productivity by region, Scotland and the North West have the highest manufacturing productivity index (over 108%) while the East Midlands, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside have the lowest (less than 92%, against the UK overall baseline score of 100. The East of England, the South East and London show a manufacturing productivity index of 100-108%, while the South West, Wales and Northern Ireland show a manufacturing productivity index of between 92 and 99%.
Mark Simms Editor