Walking in Another's Shoes
Last week, in news that will shock almost nobody, we learnt that Clarks shoes will once again be produced in factories in the UK. Why isn't it a shock? Well simply nobody knows about it, and even fewer care.
But before you scoff and move on, think of the larger systemic problem that caused Clarks to shut down production plants in the UK in 2006 in some of the poorest areas of Britain.
Their Cumbria plant provided jobs for a region in the north of England that boasts many areas of outstanding natural beauty, and some of the poorest families in the UK.
Like the rest of the North, when Thatcher decided to move Britain away from secondary sectors towards the tertiary, the production lines ground to a halt, the lowering of costs of freight movement has lead to a sharp increase in outsourcing that has a huge made in China stamp which every child will see on their toys.
While moving and focus on the tertiary sector and seen London become the capital of world finance, it has left the rest of the country dragging in terms of primary and secondary sectors that more often than not attract a workforce without higher educational certificates. Stunning similarities between Motor city Detroit can be made with areas in the north of England that have suffered a similar fall in fortunes after the collapse of a mono-economy.
Scarily in countries that boast a large GDP per capita, some areas are left behind. You only have to move round Detroit to see the large swathes of desolate empty housing that once used to belong to a productive workforce to find out what happens when a business that employs everyone in the area leaves town.
When Ford and the other car companies left Detroit they left thousands without jobs, those without jobs can't afford to go to the shops and pay for the finer things, shops shut and the spiral continues until there is nothing less. This highlighted to the world how dangerous it is to put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to the economy.
Cumbria and areas in Sunderland and Sheffield, never recovered from the changes both by governance and lack thereof on jobs in the coal, textile and general manufacturing industries. It wasn't long ago that Tata steel stooped so low against foreign competition and sought to reduce their debts by shutting down UK plants.
But why is this happening? Why in one of the richest countries in the world are we struggling to support secondary sector industries?
The main reason is the workers themselves, due to the Uk's minimum wage (and don't get me wrong its great) to employ one person in the UK for a day you can employ 2-16 in a LEDC depending on the laws in those countries. Business relies on limiting liabilities and unfortunately the workers in the UK, especially those that require less education and training are being seen as an expensive way of doing business.
Clarks being back in the UK is stranger than it may first appear, but perhaps the government can step in this time and create something to keep businesses in the manufacturing sector interested in UK workers.
After all shouldn't they be trying to get the best deal for all workers?