Do you want the good news or the good news?
By Stephen Phipson CBE, Make UK CEO: As they say, do you want the good news or the good news? The good news is that the UK manufacturing sector has climbed one place in the world rankings above France to become the 8th largest manufacturing nation. This is according to the latest data from the United Nations for 2021 (the latest year available). This comes with a large degree of caution given it is only the third time in the last twenty years that the UK has been above France and, the difference is very marginal.
Both countries are still some way behind seventh placed Italy while, to no surprise, Germany remains the largest European manufacturing nation with a sector around three times larger than the UK and, more than twice the size of Italy. The second piece of good news is that the majority of the public believe manufacturing is critical to the future of the UK economy and, vital to delivering solutions today to the societal challenges we face. The findings came in a poll Make UK carried out of over two thousand people using comparable questions to a similar survey five years ago. The survey shows that 93% of people believe manufacturing is critical to growing the UK economy, compared with just 70% five years ago.
Furthermore, the gender divide was stark in 2018 when nearly a quarter of parents (24%) would encourage their son to work in manufacturing, and just 14% for daughters. However. More than a third (36%) of parents would now be happy for their daughters to work in the sector, while almost half (44%) of parents would encourage their sons to work in manufacturing. However, the bad news is that the survey shows the dial has not shifted significantly in the last five years in terms of the public’s perception of the UK as a manufacturing power.
Five years ago, the public believed the UK was 56th in the world ranking of manufacturing nations, the position occupied at the time by Kazakhstan. In the latest survey, the public believed Britain ranked 43rd, the position actually held by the United Arab Emirates. It shows that the sector still faces huge challenges in changing public perception and emphasising its importance.