Nostalgia for manufacturing will not lead to better jobs for British workers


Everyone likes manufacturing jobs. In the United States, President Joe Biden shared his love for factories with his president. predecessor Donald Trump. “I don’t think for a second that the vitality of American manufacturing is a thing of the past,” Biden Say In January of this year, he signed an executive order to encourage the federal government to buy more American-made goods.In the UK, the ruling Conservative Party is Be attracted The idea that opening new factories to work in troubled areas can reduce geographic inequality.

a new one report Onward, a British think tank from the center-right wing, summed up this argument: Manufacturing is a highly productive industry that creates good-paying jobs for people without a degree, and their alternative is usually low-paying jobs in the service industry.Indeed, many places where many manufacturing jobs have been lost in recent decades have been affected deep Social and economic losses. But is it feasible to bring work back?

Manufacturing in rich countries is highly productive because automation and outsourcing of labor-intensive processes means that the industry now needs fewer people to produce the same amount of goods. I once interviewed a young man who left the seat belt factory because of boredom. “It’s actually sitting in a chair and you press a button or two every few minutes,” he said.The idea of ??“de-industrialization” in developed countries is not entirely correct: manufacturing output in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom hold up Even if manufacturing employment declines.

Tony Blair Institute economist Jeegar Kakkad, who has worked for Jaguar Land Rover and Manufacturers Association MakeUK, said that new manufacturing companies in countries such as the United Kingdom are often capital-intensive companies but do not create many jobs. “If the job you come back is a low-skilled, low-productivity job, do you want to increase your work?” he asked. “We don’t want to compete on labor costs. This is an unstable position in the global value chain. This should not be the ambition of workers.”

There are some economic forces that may trigger demand for more manufacturing in rich countries, from Green energy Projects that benefit from certain consumer products ultrashort supply chain. As Kakkad said, policymakers can “lagged behind” these trends, but they should not expect these trends to create a large number of jobs for unqualified people, let alone create a large number of jobs in their chosen fields.

If you use subsidies or other incentives to persuade companies to set up factories in certain places, their roots are very shallow, which means that if they are not efficient enough, they can easily close again. In large companies, different factory locations often compete with each other, and workers are well aware of the internal “alliance list.”

In Glasgow, a McVitie biscuit factory is Set to off Despite all efforts to save it, 500 jobs were quickly lost. There is still demand for McVitie’s biscuits, but the owner Pladis Global said that its seven factories in the UK have overcapacity. Scottish Enterprise, a development agency, provided the company with £808,000 in “training assistance funds” in 2014 to “enhance the skills of Tollcross employees and thereby protect 485 jobs” (Pradice said, “ All conditions have been met) See.”) The agency provided the company with another £193,000 in 2016/17 to support the project to bring the Nibbles brand from Turkey to Glasgow.

A more durable strategy to help low-income workers and their local economy is to turn the soaring number of “bad jobs” in industries such as nursing and storage into “good jobs. After all, manufacturing jobs used to be bad jobs.In the 1930s, Auto Worker News description How did the people who left the Ford factory in the United States become so exhausted by the rhythm of the assembly line that they would fall asleep or even stand within minutes of getting on the tram. Industrial accidents are so common in the manufacturing center of Detroit that the novelist Erskine Caldwell called it the “Eight Finger City.”These jobs have become decent because the workers (in Support the government) fighting In order to obtain better conditions, benefits and a greater share of productivity gains.

It is misleading to say that today’s service industry jobs lack room for productivity growth that can maintain better pay and conditions. A few years ago, order pickers in Amazon warehouses picked about 100 items per hour. Now, as the robot brings the shelf to them, They pick 300 to 400 items per hour.

The nostalgia for manufacturing jobs is understandable, but it lacks imagination. We cannot reverse history, but we can learn from it.

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