Policy coordinator
John Harkin

Director of Policy

The MET industries are experiencing extremely challenging times. Many factors account for the current economic climate we are facing, however the war in Ukraine, the fallout from the COVID-19 Pandemic and an extremely tight labour market are paramount among them. Unfortunately, many of these challenges have been exacerbated by factors such as the green and digital transitions.

Increasing energy costs and high inflation alongside supply chain problems are creating drags on economic growth. So much so that MET economists are of the opinion that our sector entered recession in the second quarter of 2022.

MET economic figures

From a Ceemet perspective, the shining light of our sector is without doubt the employment figures where, despite the COVID-19 Pandemic and the current geopolitical situation, figures remain stable. We have only seen a slight decline in the figures and the current employment levels remain at over 17.4 million workers.

We are seeing a worrying development in the exports of the MET industries. There was a dramatic decrease of 10.4% in the export figures in the MET sector in 2020 vis-à-vis 2019. Despite this, in 2021 we regained our pre-corona export levels thanks to a 14.3% increase in our exports.

The latest investment data from 2020 shows that because of the covid-crisis things took a turn for the worse. Nevertheless, we have preliminary data showing a quick recovery already in 2021. If forecasts are accurate, pre-pandemic levels will be surpassed in 2023.

In 2020, production within our sector fell off a cliff. However, the preliminary value of production in the MET sector has thankfully turned a corner from this detrimental decrease of 11.6%. Current preliminary production values for 2021 stand at €3,365 billion.

In most Ceemet members’ countries, the annual average hours worked per capita in the manufacturing industry was reduced in comparison with the 2008/2009 pre-crisis period. In the MET industries, the annual average hours worked per capita shows a significant variability between countries.

Another period of weak productivity has been seen since our last publication of the Ceemet Chief Economists Report. However, in 2020 the figure, -5.8%, has been so low that there has been only one year in our figures where productivity was worse. It was in 2009 during the 2008/2009 crisis.

In 2019, the MET industries in the EU-27 & UK spent €105 billion in Research & Development (R&D) expenditure. In the same year, total R&D spend for the entire economy was €235 billion. MET companies therefore represent 45% of the R&D spend for the entire economy.

Labour cost within the EU manufacturing industries has been steadily increasing since 2017. Previous to this they increased until 2016, but at a slower pace than before the 2008/2009 crisis, owing to reduced inflation. The average hourly labour cost in the EU in 2020 was about €28.6, during the same period the per hour cost in the Eurozone was about €35.

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