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Did we manufacture more 30 years ago than we do now?

19 June 2014

Consumers are being urged to ditch urban myths and misconceptions about British manufacturing 'decline'.

Research has shown that three quarters (74 percent) mistakenly believe that the UK used to manufacture more goods 30 years ago (in the 1980s) than it does today.

The findings, from the Engineering Employers' Federation (EEF), come ahead of Manufacturing, Science and Technology Week (23 – 27 June) at the International Festival for Business. They reveal that, while consumers are supportive of British manufacturing, they are largely in the dark about the true state of the sector today.

Manufacturing is driving the economic recovery, employing 2.6 million people and accounting for 11 percent of GDP. The sector is on track for 3.6 percent growth this year. But despite this, little over a third of consumers (36 percent) believe that the UK’s manufacturing industry is growing.

While such urban myths are potentially damaging, UK manufacturers will, however, be pleased to know that they still have consumers’ backing - over three quarters (76 percent) would be proud to work for a manufacturing company in the UK. More importantly given the ongoing drive to encourage more women into the sector, women would be equally as proud as men to work for a British manufacturer.

Manufacturers will also be cheered to know that over seven in ten consumers (72 percent) prefer to buy goods that have been made in Britain. Women are the biggest champions, with 75 percent agreeing that they would prefer to buy UK manufactured goods over those made elsewhere in the world – this falls to 71 percent amongst men.

There is also widespread recognition of the vital role manufacturing plays in the broader economy. An overwhelming 91 percent of consumers agree that manufacturing is essential for the UK economy to grow, although this rises to 97 percent amongst the over 55s. Those aged 25 to 34 are the least convinced, although even here 80 percent believe manufacturing is essential for growth.

“With the global spotlight on British manufacturing [in the coming week] it is time to ditch the urban myth that Britain manufactured more in the 80s than it does today," says EEF chief executive, Terry Scuoler. "The reality is that British manufacturing is a huge success story and is going from strength-to-strength, employing 2.6 million people and accounting for 11 percent of GDP. ‘Make it Britain’ is vibrant, vital and producing more today than it did 30 years ago.

“The good news is that manufacturers already have consumers’ backing, but if we arm them with the full facts about the strength, dynamism and versatility of this essential sector we will hopefully gain their pride too. This will encourage more young people to consider a career in our sector and make it easier to attract the talented and skilled employees needed for growth to continue at a pace.”

As part of its ‘Make it Britain’ campaign, designed to champion Britain as a manufacturing and engineering powerhouse on a global stage, EEF is joining forces with Siemens to host a free conference at the International Festival for Business.

The event takes place on Wednesday 25th June at the Hilton Hotel in Liverpool. Places are limited. To find out more or to register, click here.

Les Hunt

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