Why Semiconductors Matter to Policymakers

Why do they matter? / June 23, 2014

The semiconductor industry is extremely productive.[1] At $155,000 of GDP per full-time employee, the labor productivity of the worldwide semiconductor industry stands 37% higher than that of the US economy as a whole.[2] In fact, the semiconductor industry is one of the most productive industries in the world.

At a time when many countries are acutely focused on creating jobs that add sustainable value and improve their citizens’ quality of life, it is increasingly important for policymakers to foster a healthy semiconductor ecosystem. It is widely recognized that boosting the workforce’s skills in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) can raise national competitiveness.

The semiconductor industry employs hundreds of thousands of people who have gained such advanced skills, and the quality of these jobs is reflected in the industry’s pay levels. Taking the US as an example, the semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing sector employed over 62,000 engineers with an average salary of almost $97,000 in 2012. In addition, it supported some 27,000 jobs in computer and mathematical occupations, with an average salary of around $94,000.[3]

In the industry’s geographic heartland the pay levels associated with the sector run at almost twice the national average. Average wages in Santa Clara County, California (Silicon Valley), for example, stand at $95,900 per year, compared with a national average of $49,300[4]


[1] The IMF’s December 2013 paper “Anchoring Growth: The Importance of Productivity-Enhancing Reforms in Emerging Market and Developing Economies” makes the point that productivity growth is a key driver of long-term growth prospects and improvements in living standards (https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/sdn/2013/sdn1308.pdf).
[2] Source: Oxford Economics
[3]Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012.
[4] Quarterly census of employment and wages (http://www.bls.gov/cew/).

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