Monday, September 12, 2011

Made in Ireland

One concern sometimes expressed over the economies of developed countries is that they have shifted from manufacturing to services, thereby losing job opportunities to poorer countries who can manufacture more cheaply.

I have often seen this concern expressed as the question: 'When was the last time you saw a product with "Made in USA" written on it?' I use the US just as one example, but I see this regarding other countries too. In the last two or three weeks I have seen online debaters ask this question of Ireland and Sweden, implying that they believe that both countries have negligible manufacturing industries.

In fact both Ireland and Sweden have quite strong industrial sectors, with industrial employment taking up 26% of all employment in Ireland in 2008 and 22% in Sweden the year earlier. The latest available figure for China, from 2002, is only 18%.

In terms of the value added by industry as a percentage of GDP, China has a high 46%, compared with 31% in Ireland, 25% in Sweden and only 21% in the US. Ireland has a massive trade surplus with the US, selling five times as much exports to the US as it buys in imports from the US so far this year. Sweden's trade surplus with the US is more modest, selling about twice as much as it buys, while even China's surplus is relatively smaller than Ireland's, selling about 3.8 times as much to the US as it buys.

So why do we not see 'made in Ireland' on everything if our industrial sector is so strong? Partly it is the nature of these exports. A good deal are agricultural or mining exports, while a massive section is made of pharmaceutical and medical products. So most ordinary, healthy consumers aren't going to see a 'made in Ireland' except on their beef steak. Chinese products, on the other hand, often end up in the hands of end-user consumers, and probably seem to make up a disproportionate amount of the market.


  1. lol. I loved your statement "So most ordinary, healthy consumers aren't going to see a 'made in Ireland' except on their beef steak." .. loved it. I really go crazy when people go about how chinese products are the only things available in the market these days. this article makes complete sense to me, if you ask me.

  2. Cheers again Tasha! Feel free to share any of this if you like :)

  3. Sure Shane. You should write something about the Irish accent. I would pay a million to hear you speak in the accent. I just adore it.

  4. Well I have this old radio documentary I made five years ago when I was in college:

    So if listening to a 45-minute radio documentary about a banned Chinese religious group sounds to you like a fun way to hear an Irish accent, then this is perfect! :P

  5. awwww you sound adorable.. and i have more than 40 minutes to go! I just would skip the chinese guys part and listen to your part alone. lol


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