The Future of Manufacturing Employment

In March 2018, CDE invited Robert Lawrence to speak to a number of audiences of policy-makers and business leaders about the evolution of manufacturing activities globally, the extent to which digitisation and robotisation are undermining the prospects of employment growth in this sector, and what South Africa could and should do to expand manufacturing employment. South Africa faces extraordinary challenges in dealing with the crisis of unemployment that is, as much as anything else, a crisis of inadequate growth. Addressing it will require imagination, hard work and luck. It will also require a degree of realism about the extent to which development can rely as heavily on manufacturing-led growth as societies in the developed world did. There is a lot of evidence that, at least from the point of view of job creation, manufacturing-led development will have to be supplemented by the growth of good jobs in other sectors, especially services.