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UK overtakes France to become 8th largest manufacturer

11 September, 2023

The UK has overtaken France to become the world’s eighth-largest manufacturer, according to the manufacturers’ organisation, Make UK. Its analysis of the latest official data also reveals that manufacturing jobs in the UK pay better than both the services sector and the economy as a whole.

According to Make UK, in 2021 – the latest year for which global comparisons are available – UK manufacturing output was worth $272bn, compared to $262bn for France. Both were behind Italy on $314bn.

China was the world’s largest manufacturer with sales worth $4.9tn, followed by the US on $2.5tn and Japan on $995bn. Germany was the world’s fourth-biggest manufacturer, and Europe’s largest, with 2021 sales worth $803bn.

The figures are contained in the latest edition of Make UK’s annual Manufacturing – The Facts publication, which contains data on the contribution of manufacturing to the UK economy including exports, as well as a sectoral breakdown, and a comparison with other countries.

While Make UK regards the rise in the export rankings as “encouraging”, it cautions that this is only the third time since 2002 that the UK has been ranked higher than France and cannot be attributed to a post-Brexit bounce or other specific factors.

Separate 2022 data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) values the UK’s manufacturing output at £224bn. Make UK believes that, if the Government commits to expanding manufacturing to 15% of the UK’s GDP – which would add an estimated £142bn to the UK economy – then the sector could reach the same size as seventh-ranked Italy.

The Make UK analysis also shows that, contrary to popular opinion, manufacturing jobs are better paid than jobs in the services sector and the economy as a whole. According to ONS data, the average salary in manufacturing during 2022 was £36,488 – almost 10% higher than the national average pay of £33,402, and well ahead of the £32,676 average for the services sector.

The analysis shows that the US remains the UK’s main export market, worth £56.7bn in 2022. While the Netherlands (on £33.3bn) has overtaken Germany (on £37bn), to become the UK’s second-biggest export market, Make UK warns that trade with the Netherlands could be inflated artificially by goods that are routed via Rotterdam for onward travel to other destinations.

The top ten export desitinations for UK manufactured goods, excluding food and beverage
Source: Make UK

Ireland is the UK’s fourth-largest export market (£30.3bn). Six of the country’s top ten export markets are in the EU and are together worth around £150bn – almost three times as much as exports to the US, and around four times higher than sales to China. According to Make UK, this highlights the continued importance of the EU for UK goods and the need to smooth trade barriers with what remains its dominant market.

The food and drink sector is the UK’s biggest exporter, sending 12.4% of its goods abroad in 2022. The sector expanded its exports by almost a quarter (23%) compared to 2021. Exports by the aerospace and transport sector increased by 27.9% during the same period, highlighting its importance to high-value manufacturing.

The North West remains the UK’s leading manufacturing area, with an output worth £28.2bn and employing 314,000 people. Manufacturing accounts for almost 15% of the North West’s economic output, and 8% of its employment.

Manufacturing accounts for almost a fifth (17.3%) of the Welsh economy, compared to a national average of just under 10%.

With many competitor nations having their own industrial strategies, Make UK is repeating its calls for a long-term, modern, and robust strategy for the UK which could help turn the Government’s 15% ambition into a reality.

Make UK:  Twitter  LinkedIn

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