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International comparisons of manufacturing

Published Thursday, August 18, 2016

Manufacturing: comparisons of manufacturing in the UK and other major economies since 1970 using UN data.

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This note uses UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) data to compare manufacturing in different countries. The most recent data from this source are for 2014.

Manufacturing output in 2014:


  • For the first time in the UN data, Chinese manufacturing output was the highest in the world, $1.9 trillion.
  • USA manufacturing output totalled $1.8 trillion, the second highest in the world.
  • The UK’s manufacturing output was $247 billion, the 9th highest in the world.

Manufacturing output per head:

Per head 

  • In Switzerland, manufacturing output per head was $11,600 in 2014, the highest in the world by a considerable margin.
  • In the UK, manufacturing output per head was $3,800, but note that the population and total manufacturing output in the UK is far larger than in Switzerland.

Manufacturing as a proportion of national economic output in 2014: 

% national

  • Small, developing economies that are highly reliant on their manufacturing sector have the highest manufacturing output as a proportion of total economic output.
  • For example, Turkmenistan has the highest proportion of output from manufacturing at 38%. The tiny island nation of Nauru’s manufacturing output totals 37% of total output.
  • In the UK, the manufacturing sector accounted for 11% of output.

UK manufacturing rankings: 

UK ranking

  • The UK has fallen down the world rank of manufacturing nations in the last decade. Having been the 5th or 6th biggest manufacturer in terms of total output between 1970 and 2004, the UK is now 9th.
  • The USA was the world’s largest manufacturer between 1970 and 2013. It is now the second biggest, having been overtaken by China in 2014.


Commons Briefing papers SN05809

Author: Chris Rhodes

Topics: Economic situation, Industry, Manufacturing industries, World economy

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