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Manufacturing jobs plummet in 20-year decline across West Midlands

By Pete Madeley | Business | Published:

Manufacturing jobs in the West Midlands have fallen by over 230,000 over the past 20 years – the biggest decline in the UK.

The number of manufacturing jobs has plummeted in the West Midlands in the past 20 years

According to analysis of figures from the ONS, the region has accounted for one in six of all manufacturing job losses in the country over the period.

In 1999, a total of 20 per cent of West Midlands workers had jobs in manufacturing, but the analysis shows that figure has now plummeted to 10 per cent.

It is part of a countrywide decline, which has hit areas including the car industry, metal fabricating and engineering.

The data was sourced by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which warned that the continuing decline in the region's manufacturing sector would harm jobs and productivity growth.

However, the left-wing think tank says that despite the decline, the West Midlands remains a major exporter, with the greatest value of goods exports per working age person of any region in the UK at over £9,000.

Inside the Jaguar Land Rover engine plant at the i54 near Wolverhampton

Carys Roberts, Chief Economist and Head of the Centre for Economic Justice, IPPR has called for a complete reform of the UK's economic model.

She said: “Our economic model is not working for most people across the UK, including the West Midlands.

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"The past decade has been the worst for wage growth in 200 years. We have a persistent trade deficit because we buy more from the rest of the world than we sell to it.

"It’s time for fundamental reform. That must include rebalancing the economy towards export-oriented industries and promoting investment around the country. It will also mean a radical change in who holds power in the economy.

"As we confront the challenges of further globalisation, and of technological, demographic and environmental change, doing nothing won’t keep things the same – it will make things worse. We urgently need an economy where prosperity and justice go hand in hand.”

It was also announced in January that luxury car giant Jaguar Land Rover planned to cut 4,500 jobs as part of £2.5 billion cost savings.

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This comes despite yesterday's news JLR plans to build electric cars in the West Midlands, with the motors set to be made at the i54 in Wolverhampton.

Other studies have put the decline in manufacturing jobs down to the rise of the robots, with a new report by Oxford Economics claiming the West Midlands is one of the UK regions most at risk from job losses due to automation.

According to the report ‘How Robots Change the World – What automation really means for jobs and productivity’, the rate of ‘robotisation’ is increasing rapidly, with the number of industrial robots more than doubling since 2000.

Each new robot displaces 1.6 manufacturing jobs, it says.

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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