Since the industrial revolution manufacturing has been a vital component of the British economy. In the nineteenth century the UK was the worlds largest manufacturer, however, in the last hundred years Britain's share of the worlds manufacturing output has declined, a decline which has perhaps been more apparent over the last thirty years than before.
There are several theories as to why manufacturing in the UK has suffered so badly, one of which is the "Maturity Thesis". One aspect of this theory draws attention to the fact that Britain, as the worlds oldest industrial economy, is experiencing a fall in manufacturing so that capital and labour can be redirected to service industries which are demanded more today. This shift in the economy from secondary to tertiary draws parallels with the movement from primary to secondary industries experienced in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries . It is argued that as society demands more from the service sector, for example; childcare and cleaning services, the manufacturing sector will decline.
Table 1.0: Changes In Industrial Employment
Source: Griffiths and Wall p 11
Analysing the data in table 1.0 the evidence supporting the maturity thesis does not appear to be too strong. While some industrialised countries such as Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland experienced falls in industrial employment similar to those experienced in the UK, other industrialised countries such as Canada, the USA, Japan, Germany, and the Netherlands have not followed the theory, and have actually experienced rises in the level of employment in industrial industries. Furthermore, it is the economically stronger countries like the USA, Germany and Japan that have experienced increases, this suggests that the decline in manufacturing in the UK is not due to an inevitable economic processes like economic maturity.
Another popular theory accounting for Britain's decline...