EMCC European Monitoring Centre on Change

The textiles and leather sector - what future?

Sector Futures provides specialised reports based on the monitoring of existing foresight studies, scenario work, innovation studies and reliable data sources. The second feature in the Sector Futures series on the textiles and leather sector explores in greater depth the driving forces likely to shape future developments in the industry. It discusses whether the textiles and clothing industry is 'a dying industry - or not?' in Europe. The third and last article in the series then looks at policy responses currently being pursued at EU level, in order to address the challenges facing the sector over the coming decade.

The European textiles and leather sector, which also includes clothing and footwear production, employs over two million people in 177,000 enterprises and has a turnover of more than €200 billion. Over the past 15 years, this sector has undergone large-scale restructuring. Modernisation of the industry has progressed considerably, productivity has increased, and production has been reoriented towards high-quality articles with a greater accent on innovation. However, this restructuring has also entailed a reduction of approximately one-third of the workforce. Further developments likely to affect the industry over the coming decade include EU enlargement, increased competitiveness resulting from innovation, research, skills, quality and creation, and, most significantly, the elimination of import quotas in 2005 and the challenges and opportunities of a new round of multilateral negotiations.

From defining the trends and drivers…

The May 2004 feature, Textiles and leather in Europe: the end of an era or a new beginning? (pdf 67 kb), provides a snapshot of the textiles and leather sector, focusing on some of the trends and driving forces that will map its future.

…towards visions for the future

The second feature in the series, Textiles and clothing: A dying industry - or not? (pdf 80 kb), only covers the textiles and clothing industry, focusing on six key drivers that are likely to shape future developments in the industry. For each driver, three 'outlooks' have been articulated: an extrapolition of current trends and drivers (Alpha outlook); a situation where many things go wrong (Beta outlook); and a situation involving more visionary outcomes (Delta outlook). The aim is not to forecast the future, but rather to explore plausible outcomes for the industry over the next 10 years.

Policy implications

Drawing on the two previous features, the third article in the series, Policy responses to post-2005 challenges (pdf 180 kb) summarises the policy responses currently pursued at European level, in order to address the challenges facing the textiles and clothing industry over the coming decade. It presents several policy intiatives, ranging from those concerned with trade through to improving the skills and education of the European workforce.

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