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August 11, 2011

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Posted: 10 Aug 2011 10:01 PM PDT

Rodrik: The Manufacturing Imperative

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 09:09 AM PDT

Dani Rodrik:

The Manufacturing Imperative, by Dani Rodrik, Commentary, Project Syndicate: We may live in a post-industrial age, in which information technologies, biotech, and high-value services have become drivers of economic growth. But countries ignore the health of their manufacturing industries at their peril.
High-tech services demand specialized skills and create few jobs, so their contribution to aggregate employment is bound to remain limited. Manufacturing, on the other hand, can absorb large numbers of workers with moderate skills, providing them with stable jobs and good benefits. For most countries, therefore, it remains a potent source of high-wage employment.
Indeed, the manufacturing sector is also where the world's middle classes take shape and grow. Without a vibrant manufacturing base, societies tend to divide between rich and poor – those who have access to steady, well-paying jobs, and those whose jobs are less secure and lives more precarious. Manufacturing may ultimately be central to the vigor of a nation's democracy. ...
As economies develop and become richer, manufacturing – "making things" – inevitably becomes less important. But if this happens more rapidly than workers can acquire advanced skills, the result can be a dangerous imbalance between an economy's productive structure and its workforce. We can see the consequences all over the world, in the form of economic underperformance, widening inequality, and divisive politics.

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