The conditions of the manufacturing industry in the global context: which strategies and actions to foster a reindustrialization process.
A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of industry… The old continent, the incubator for the secondary sector and today the orphan of an advanced tertiary sector people thought would generate a much longer lasting economic impetus, is apparently thinking about the need for a revival, with the appropriate updates, of the manufacturing industry that made it a leader of economic and social development. Like the phoenix, a new idea of industry seems to be arising from the ashes of deindustrialization scattered around the member states of the European Union, an idea where economic progress and social progress co-exist as integral elements of sustainable growth. Is it a utopia to think about developing new sources of energy, raising productivity, supporting consumer spending and, at the same time, using increased wealth to achieve environmental quality and ever healthier and safer workplaces and products? Welfare or re-industrialization?
Hit by the effects of careless consumerism on one hand and insufficiently far-sighted investment on the other, the economic machine that underpinned the Western nations in the 20th century has seen its production capacity weaken; globalization and delocalization have transformed these countries into services economies, assigning the role of “factory of the world” to the more recently industrialized regions.
Lower labor costs, sufficiently skilled manpower, lower taxation, incentives for foreign investments and easier access to technology are just some of the factors that have changed the world scenario in which manufacturers operate. Thirty years of globalization have seen corporations compete in a headlong race for internationalization and investment, and workers as cogs in a mechanism that has effectively fueled a reduction in production costs but also a loss in purchasing power and less favorable social conditions, leading to the global crisis of the last ten years.
Recent studies now show that offshoring to the emerging nations is no longer a fundamental discriminating factor in the choice of a new production facility: higher wages, custom duties, transport costs and cultural difficulties are just some of the causes shaking up the paradigms of the recent past.
For the West, the time seems to have come for a Third Industrial Revolution that, through the lens of Sustainability, fosters the idea of an ecological and social market economy by adopting courageous, long-term industrial policies. The USA also seems to have quietly launched a “reshoring” policy for many industrial production operations, supported by a variety of factors such as a reduction in the divergence between domestic and foreign wages and greater energy independence as a result of shale gas.
On the other side of the Atlantic, at the European Parliament’s first plenary session in 2014, the European Union approved the RISE strategy (Renaissance of Industry for a Sustainable Europe), where the main priority for Europe is to safeguard production sectors and know-how for a rapid recovery of competitiveness based on technological and entrepreneurial innovation.
The Ghostbuster of the West is an Industrial Renaissance.