> China may be one of the last nations to ride the wave of industrialisation to prosperity.
> As shown by Dani Rodrik of Harvard University, over the course of the 20th century, peak manufacturing employment has steadily declined in emerging economies. In Britain, the first country to industrialise, manufacturing employment peaked at 45 per cent before the first world war. By contrast, Mr Rodrik suggests manufacturing employment in Brazil, India and China has already peaked below 15 per cent.
> This is in part because manufacturing processes are more automated. China in particular is not only the fastest-growing market for industrial robotics, it has replaced the US as the biggest market for automation. [...]
> Since the 1980s, low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa have seen declines in their manufacturing share, as have middle-income countries in Latin America, making it less likely manufacturing will provide a route for workers seeking to escape poverty. [...]
> ...although the employment share of manufacturing in the US has fallen sharply, the output share has remained roughly constant over the past 50 years.
> Thus, the US remains a competitive manufacturing location, but without producing many new production jobs. Even in low-cost locations, this will gradually become the case. Estimates by Citi Research show the payback period for industrial robots in China is now less than two years. [...]
> In emerging middle-income countries, as well as low-cost destinations, labour will struggle to compete with ever cheaper technologies. In the absence of industrialisation as a path towards economic development, countries will need to discover new growth models.
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