Manufacturing continues its long steady decline

The loss of 160 jobs at Golden Circle’s Northgate plant is obviously terrible news for the workers and their families. Anyone working in the manufacturing sector needs to be aware that the long-run economic trend of de-industrialisation (and a shift to services) in OECD economies is against them, and they need to invest in their education and skills.

The chart below shows the stabilisation of manufacturing employment in Queensland over the last five years at around 185,000 to 195,000 jobs, as well as the steady decline in manufacturing employment as a share of total employment – from around 12% in 1985 to 8.5% today.

With the high Australian dollar, the relative decline in manufacturing will no doubt continue. There are of course opportunities remaining in manufacturing, especially for niche manufacturers – e.g. synthetic turf manufacturers supplying a local market. In a study on the manufacturing sector last year, I found that Queensland had a higher proportion of new small turnover manufacturers than other States. These are possibly the innovative niche manufacturers who are the future of manufacturing in our State. I’ve reproduced the relevant chart from the study below.

So manufacturing in Queensland still has a future, but, given the long-run trends, anyone working in the sector would be well advised to think about their career and study options.

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