Local manufacturing heads for extinction

17 Jul 2017
Australia lost 122,400 manufacturing jobs in the decade to 2015

Australia’s manufacturing level is the OECD’s lowest and the long-term decline of manufacturing here is atypical among comparable countries, new research shows.

University of Queensland Institute for Social Science Research researcher Dr Jenny Povey said Australia lost 122,400 manufacturing jobs in the decade to 2015.

“The sector now accounts for only 7.1 per cent of Queensland jobs,” Dr Povey said.

Manufacturing’s share of national employment dropped from 30.5 per cent in 1965 to 7.8 per cent now, according to the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union-commissioned study.

“We can no longer hope to simultaneously outsource to countries with lower production costs and keep high-skill jobs here,” Dr Povey said.

“Our research illustrates the decline in Australian manufacturing output is not typical and that Australia has the lowest share of manufacturing employment of any OECD country.”

Dr Povey urged Australia’s federal and state governments to increase investment and intervention.

“They should learn from Germany, if Australian manufacturing is to be saved,” she said.

“The German government spends AUD$3.2 billion annually funding a network of research institutes to drive innovation, and their manufacturing sector contributes 22.6 per cent of GDP, underpinned by partnerships between researchers and industry.

“The German model works to drive exports of manufactured goods and create jobs.

“Manufacturing provides skills to other industries, and its decline will result in skills shortages in other industries, therefore a shift in Australia’s policy direction is required now.

“Increased public procurement is an important facet of that change, and this research supports the notion that when we can make things in Australia, we should.”

Economist and Australia Institute Centre for Future Work Director Dr Jim Stanford said the study supported research undertaken by his institute last year.

“UQ’s report confirms the drop in manufacturing work is not normal or inevitable,” he said.

“Queensland possesses enormous assets – human, physical, and financial – which could be put to work to revitalise value-added industry.

Achieving this goal is vital if we are to preserve a society in which working families can hope to enjoy decent, stable lives.”

AMWU Queensland State Secretary Rohan Webb said the research reinforced the experiences of manufacturing workers.

“As traditional manufacturing declines, businesses are shutting, people are suffering and

 regional communities are becoming ghost towns,” Mr Webb said.

“We need good manufacturing jobs to support our local economies and communities - and this research shows governments must intervene now.”

Download the report: The future of manufacturing jobs in Queensland

Media: Gillian Ievers, g.ievers@uq.edu.au, 07 3346 1634.