Is deindustrialisation in the U.K an undesirable process?
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Is deindustrialisation in the U.K an undesirable process? How has the mechanisation of Britain's industrial sector affected the national economy and the British population? In the early 1980's, many people became concerned with the decline of manufacturing employment and the sharp rise in the share of jobs in services. This was called deindustrialisation. Since the 1980's, the number of people employed in manufacturing in the U.K has decreased rapidly. In 1979, 7 million people were employed in manufacturing, in 2000 this figure has dropped to just 4 million, a decrease of 42%. In the early 70's, secondary activities were relatively important in MEDC's (more economically developed countries) but this has declined in favour of the more service based industries like catering and health. We can assume that much of this is due to the increasing advances in new technology, which allow the development of mechanisation in the industrial sector and lessens the need for a large labour force. We could also look at the change in job description as people change from doing the tasks themselves to operating robots, because this is also a cause of industrial change. In order to ascertain whether deindustrialisation is undesirable we first have to look at its causes and effects. There are many causes of deindustrialisation. In terms of internal change, there was a loss of competitiveness and technological change meant that many factories where in uneconomical locations with outdated machinery and a high cost labour force.
There is no minimum wage, and because the cost of living is lower, the low wages go further. Now, many big western companies have more employees (and customers) in poor countries than in rich ones, as it is far easier to make a profit where the expense is lower. The greatest job losses have been in industries such as iron and steel, heavy engineering, shipbuilding and textiles. This meant that the old industrial areas such as the coalfields of Great Britain were struck badly. In the 1980's, the problems had spread to all areas of manufacturing. Production was being taken to East Asia and Latin America, newly industrialised and rapidly industrialising countries (RIC's). In the Western countries, the tertiary and quaternary sectors were becoming more dominant. It became obvious that deindustrialisation was industry specific, affecting those towns and cities which relied mainly on the manufacturing industries. Those areas especially affected by the decline, were those which relied on only one or two large industrial companies. When they shut down most of that town's labour force became unemployed. Some areas were able to stop the effects of deindustrialisation because they relied on many small companies, which meant they were less badly hit by closure of factories. Not all the companies closed, and the communal work force was not unemployed at the same time. However, deindustrialisation does not always incur negative effects.
Deindustrialisation could be seen as a positive stage in the economic growth of a country. It allows the expansion of service sectors and job opportunities within finance and tourism etc. It involves the reduction in the workforce and result in lower costs and in turn allows lower prices for the consumer. Deindustrialisation promotes technological advancement, opening up a new sector in industry and creating more jobs in other skills based jobs. On the whole, as Rachel Perry outlined in her email on the subject (page 25) most people view deindustrialisation as an undesirable process. It often means huge job losses and it affects many other businesses that rely on workers in the secondary sector. It has changed the structure of employment and has introduced a new generation of technologies and working practices. In 1998, 75% of the UK's labour force worked in services, and 20% in manufacturing. Unemployment is at its lowest since the sixties, air and rivers are cleaner and factory-built housing has almost disappeared, leaving in its wake a better standard of living conditions. It seems that although deindustrialisation can cause many areas to have economical problems for a few years, there are now plenty of opportunities to join the service work force, which is improving all the time. This sector generates more money and gives rise to the suggestion that deindustrialisation is the natural outcome of the process of successful economic development, generally associated with rising living standards.
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