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Can Anything Be Done to Arrest the Terminal Decline of the Uk Clothing Industry?

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“Can anything be done to arrest the terminal decline of the UK Clothing Industry?”

The industrial revolution was the sudden acceleration of technical and economic development that began in Britain in the second half of the 18th century. The traditional agrarian economy was replaced by one dominated by machinery and manufacturing, made possible through technical advances such as the steam engine.

Britain exhibited a combination of favourable circumstances for such a change: an increasing population creating a larger workforce, natural resources, especially a plentiful and accessible supply of coal and cheap capital as a result of low interest rates which was essential for the high levels of investment required in the new technology. New materials, basically iron and steel, were used as well as new energy sources, such as coal and the steam engine, and most obviously new machinery, particularly in the textile industry. Transport systems were revolutionised by steam trains, canals, and better roads. New working conditions led to wealth moving away from the land and towards the new manufacturing classes. More people moved to where the factories were built creating growth within the urban areas.

As stated by Rostow (1960) countries pass through five stages of economic development.

Stage 1 - Traditional Society

Agriculture is the most important industry and production is labour intensive using only limited quantities of capital. Resource allocation is determined very much by traditional methods of production.

Stage 2 - Transitional Stage (the preconditions for takeoff)

There is an emergence of a transport infrastructure to support trade. As incomes, savings and investment grow entrepreneurs emerge.

Stage 3 - Take Off

Industrialisation increases, with workers switching from the agricultural sector to the manufacturing sector. Growth is concentrated in a few regions of the country and in one or two manufacturing industries. The growth is self-sustaining as investment leads to increasing incomes in turn generating more savings to finance further investment.

Stage 4 - Drive to Maturity

The economy is diversifying into new areas. Technological innovation is providing a diverse range of investment opportunities. The economy is producing a wide range of goods and services and there is less reliance on imports.

Stage 5 - High Mass Consumption

The economy is geared towards mass consumption. The consumer durable industries flourish.

The industrial revolution originated in Great Britain over many years which is what Rostow based his five stages of economic development on (Rostow 1960). The traditional society was in the UK between the years of 1000-1500, the pre-conditions for take off happened in the 17th/18th century, the take off into sustained economic growth happened in the late 18th century, the drive to maturity in the 19th century and the mass consumption occurred in the 20th century onward. He stated that all countries would go through the fives stages and by looking how Britain went through it would speed up and make easier other countries transition.

By 1870 the technology that produced the Industrial Revolution in Britain had reached the phase of diminishing returns, when investment no longer yielded the expected return of impact and when every extra pound invested yielded a diminishing return in productivity, in markets and in profits. Rostow’s model did not account for industrial decline which progressively got worse and worse until the present day.

Jones (2002) states that the production of clothing and the associated level of employment in the UK have been in long term decline for many years. As the development or evolution of an industry over time can be described statistically in the terms of fluctuations in output and employment the graph proves Jones’ statement is valid. Both output and employment has declined since 1978. It is possible to see that from the mid 1990’s output and employment have declined together in contrast with the first period of rapid decline between 1978 and 1983. Although this is not promising for the UK clothing industry it is not alone, the entire manufacturing industry in the UK has seen a decline.

From the figures in the table it is possible to see that the UK number of apparel employees has declined by 125% in the past 10 years.

The reasons

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