11 July, 2011

Wellington - making movies or making stuff?

Wellington's movie industry is sexy.  Does that justify the substantial ratepayer-funded resources and official support it receives, compared to say, Wellington's manufacturing sector?  I know the movie industry is important for Wellington's self-esteem and international profile, and our elected representatives and their officials obviously enjoy the glitz rubbing off on them.   But at 610 jobs in 2010, movie and sound production is only 80 jobs higher than it was 10 years earlier.  Likewise, artistic activity (a broad group including actors) only added 40 jobs in 10 years to reach 600 jobs last year.

Many people, elected representatives and their officials amongst them, have fallen for the myth that manufacturing is dead in Wellington, when clearly it is not. Putting aside the public sector, manufacturing is still one of the big wealth-creating sectors of the Wellington regional economy, employing 13,370 people in 2010; far more than the software industry, let alone the movie industry. We all know that manufacturing has faced some challenges; some manufacturing sub-sectors have lost job numbers since their heyday. But so too have parts of the IT sector; internet and data processing operation (as distinct from design and development) has less than half the jobs it did 10 years ago. Technology and outsourcing have played a big part in both sectors' changes, but no-one is suggesting that we shouldn't be building and operating internet businesses.

It's high time manufacturing received more respect. Despite massive economic change and widespread misconceptions and prejudices, it's still here in Wellington. And with the right ideas, leadership, funding and ambition, it can be much bigger in future. This is going to be a developing theme from me.

Government statistics for February 2010 reveal the following distribution of jobs in the Wellington region.
*Note: Because people tend to lump IT operational services with IT development services,
I've reallocated computer design and development jobs from the professional services sector to the Information, media and telecommunications sector. This boosts the IMT numbers considerably, but it's a very diverse sector. IMT jobs in 2010 comprised:
  • Computer system design and development 5160
  • Internet portals, data processing services 960
  • Telecommunications services 2700
  • Libraries etc 1030
  • Publishing 1660
  • Broadcasting 730
  • Movie and sound production 610

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