Global figures show that manufacturing is caught in a particularly vicious bind. Productivity is continually rising, which means fewer people are needed to produce more goods more cheaply. At the same time, demand for these goods is relatively inelastic beyond a given point: for each 1% decline in the price, demand increases by only 0.7%. This is all very relevant to a country such as SA with a large and growing population and high unemployment. But even though the proportion of the workforce employed in manufacturing is reducing, these jobs are still worth having. No other jobs have a higher multiplier effect: because manufacturing has so many linkages into the economy, every rand invested in manufacturing promotes growth in businesses servicing manufacturers. An additional fly in the ointment is that the fourth industrial revolution, which is expected to see robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things become mainstream, will inevitably further reduce manufact...

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