Job security and pay fears at heart of manufacturing's "image problem"

Misplaced fears about job security and low pay could thwart efforts to strengthen British manufacturing and rebalance the economy, a new analysis of the sector's image among the general public has revealed.

The report was carried out by the Institute for Manufacturing’s Centre for Industry and Government, in partnership with YouGov-Cambridge. It is the first critical investigation into how the public view British manufacturing and found that just one in five people in the UK would encourage their children to take up a manufacturing job. A principal reason appears to be the widely-held, but mistaken, belief that the sector pays badly and that manufacturing jobs are the first to be moved overseas.


The study recommends that the Government needs to address both these problems and deeper issues about public confidence if it is to fulfil its stated ambition of strengthening the sector and encouraging more young people to take up manufacturing roles.


Many of those surveyed believe that manufacturing has an important part to play in a rebalancing of the economy away from its present bias towards financial services. Less than a third however, said that they had confidence in government to do the job – and many felt that the economy is simply no longer set up to support firms that “make things”.


The report’s aim is to provide an evidence base for policy-makers to address the sector’s “image problem”; a legacy of decades of decline that has reduced its contribution to GDP by more than 60% since the 1970s.


Finbarr Livesey, Director of the IfM’s Centre for Industry and Government and the report’s author, said: “Most people clearly still believe that manufacturing is important, but few of them have long term faith in manufacturing jobs. If we are going to draw bright young people into the sector, then we need to address the current public narrative of low wages and low job security head on, so that careers in manufacturing are represented accurately.”


Full press release

PDF of the report

Date published

8 March 2012

Share This