Photo: Bang & Olufsen
makingit_14_pp36-39_denmark_print 16/10/2013 17:15 Page 37
GDP, have lost a combined 65,000 workers since 2000. Over the same period, manufacturing’s share of GDP shrank from 17% to 12%, and financial and business services now account for the biggest share (25%) of GDP (source: OECD). Future prospects are dimmed by the decline in the number of young people entering industrial employment. According to a recent report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), only 9% of Denmark’s industrial workforce is under the age of 24, down from 21% in 1993. This decline threatens Danish industry because the availability of highly trained factory workers has long been a key competitive advantage. The competitive challenge will be exacerbated over coming decades as highly trained workers retire, with few successors rising through the ranks.
World-famous Danish companies include Novo Nordisk, Bang & Olufsen, Carlsberg, Novozymes, Maersk and Vestas.
industry, pushing it to produce solar panels of the highest possible quality in order to improve returns on investment. Wind and solar energy are key elements in a green strategy promoted by the Danish government. At present, Denmark covers 22% of national energy consumption with renewables. In 2012, the parliament pledged to ensure that 35% of the Danish energy supply will be based on renewables by 2020, with the aim of attaining 100% by 2050.
Challenges ahead In spite of the country’s competitive strengths, manufacturing employment has been shrinking for decades. From 1980 to 2010, Denmark shed nearly 160,000 production jobs. The top five industries in Denmark, machinery; food and beverages; petroleum and chemical products; fabricated metals; and electrical components, which account for 68% of Denmark’s manufacturing employment and 78% of manufacturing’s contribution to
Manufacturing competitiveness is also being eroded by wage inflation. Although wages in China and other emerging markets are rising sharply each year, the labour-cost gap is not shrinking sufficiently to improve Danish manufacturing competitiveness compared with low-cost countries in the near term. Since 2004, average Danish hourly factory wages have increased 3.5% annually. Even though this is far below the pace of wage inflation in China and other emerging markets, Danish wages are rising just as fast in absolute terms because they are starting from a much higher base. The BCG projects that average factory wages will increase from the current rate of about €29 per hour to €36 per hour by 2020. The country’s manufacturing sector is dominated by companies established decades ago in old-line industries. There have been very few major new entrants as revealed by the fact that 24 of Denmark’s 30 biggest manufacturing companies were founded before 1972, suggesting that the country is not developing enough dynamic new manufacturers capable of becoming global leaders in next-generation industries. If allowed to continue, the erosion of the manufacturing base is likely to have serious ramifications for the economy because manufacturing companies not only contribute jobs and strong trade balances, but also support adjacent industries. Only the right mix of policies and corporate investment will enable Denmark to restore its competitiveness and ensure that manufacturing remains a powerful contributor to future economic growth and job creation.
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