Getting back on track: looser restrictions fire up post-pandemic recovery


More than a year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic hit global manufacturing in an unprecedented way by disrupting global value chains and restricting the movement of people and goods. Now, with a greater understanding of the channels of transmission and the vaccination campaign advancing in some countries, numerous governments across the world have begun easing restrictions.

The latest UNIDO data confirms that global manufacturing production recovered strongly in the first half of 2021, with most observed countries reporting considerable growth. However, the recovery path has been uneven, with medium-high and high-technology industries recovering faster, further exacerbating pre-existing determinants of inequality.

The new UNIDO World Manufacturing Report reports official data covering the second quarter of 2021 and includes the most recent trends in global manufacturing production. This quarter points to an overall year-on-year growth of 18.2% in worldwide manufacturing output, but the report also shows the different pace of recovery across regions and sectors.

Looking at the regional level, China’s manufacturing output grew at an annual rate of 12.1% in the second quarter. The country surpassed its pre-pandemic production level in the third quarter of 2020 and has been growing strongly since then. Other emerging and developing economies reached pre-pandemic output levels a quarter later, in the fourth quarter of 2020. However, global uncertainty and the unrelenting impact of the pandemic meant that the expansion of production could not be maintained in the second quarter of this year. Industrialized economies, on the other hand, are reporting more gradual, but sustained rates of growth. To avoid further economic restrictions and support a full recovery of the manufacturing sector, a sufficiently high vaccination rate, including a fair distribution of vaccines within and among countries, remains the best solution.

The uneven pace of recovery was not only observed at the country level. The UNIDO report highlights a similar trend among sectors. While almost all manufacturing industries reported two-digit annual growth in the second quarter of the year, high- technology sectors recovered at a faster. This is an ongoing trend since the first signs of a recovering production were identified in the second half of 2020. High-technology sectors grew by more than 20% compared to the same quarter of last year, while the output of low-technology industries registered a comparably lower growth rate of13%. Most high-technology industries have already exceeded pre-pandemic production levels. An exception to this is the automotive sector. Due to a subdued demand and supply chain difficulties, among other factors, production in this sector remains six per cent below its level before COVID-19.

The full report features detailed information and an account of recent trends in global manufacturing at country, regional and industry levels.