The manufacturing industry exhibited a recovery from the pandemic in 2021, although the rebound has been uneven across countries, with stagnations in the least developed countries. Almost one in three jobs in the manufacturing industry was negatively impacted during the pandemic. Higher-technology industries had better performance and recovered faster, providing a strong example of how important technological innovation is for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 9.
In 2021, global manufacturing activity rose above the pre-pandemic level but the recovery remains incomplete and unequal. Manufacturing in least-developed countries stagnated owing to subdued and volatile global demand and disruption to global trade, in addition to tighter domestic economic policies. Despite the pandemic disruptions, the global share of manufacturing value added to total GDP increased from 16.2 percent in 2015 to 16.9 percent in 2021. While manufacturing value added per capita in Europe and Northern America reached an all-time high of $5,006 in 2021, in the least developed countries it decreased to $134.
Because of the pandemic, nearly one in three jobs in manufacturing supply chains globally are likely to have undergone termination, a reduction in working hours or payment, or other worsened conditions. The share of manufacturing employment in total employment thus decreased significantly from 13.7 percent in 2019 to 13.1 percent in 2020.
Small industrial enterprises are more vulnerable than larger firms to economic downturns owing to their limited financial resources and greater supply chain dependencies. Although governmental support plays a key role in supporting small enterprises in their efforts to survive and thrive during and after the crisis, such a stimulus is hardly available in low-income countries. Based on survey data from 2006–2020, only 15.7 percent of small-scale industries in sub-Saharan Africa received loans or lines of credit compared with 44.2 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Global CO2 emissions declined by 5.8 percent in 2020 or by almost 2 billion tons, the largest decline since 1990 and almost five times greater than the 2009 decline which followed the global financial crisis. Despite the 2020 decline, global energy-related CO2 emissions remained at 31.5 billion tons, which contributed to the attainment of CO2 of its highest average annual concentration in the atmosphere. In 2021, global energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 6.0 percent to 36.3 billion metric tons, their highest-ever level, as demand for coal, oil, and gas rebounded with the economy.
Most of the industries using medium and high technology have reached pre-pandemic levels, except for motor vehicles and other transport equipment. The production of motor vehicles is facing more significant challenges worldwide owing to disruptions in the supply chain for resources and intermediate goods. However, the share of medium- and high-technology manufacturing in total manufacturing was only 21.4 percent in sub-Saharan Africa and 10.5 percent in the least developed countries, compared with 47.7 percent in Europe and Northern America in 2019.
In most developing countries, mobile broadband (third generation (3G) or above) is the main means – and often the only means – of connecting to the Internet. Currently, 95 percent of the world's population has access to a mobile broadband network. Between 2015 and 2021, 4G network coverage doubled to 88 percent of the world’s population. However, the coverage gap remains significant in the least developed countries and landlocked developing countries, where 17 percent of the population remains without any access to a mobile broadband network.