Reshoring: Myth or Reality?

The news that (manufacturing) companies in OECD economies are increasingly bringing manufacturing activities back home has attracted much attention in recent years. Headline cases of a number of large multinational companies have given increased visibility to the phenomenon of reshoring in the (economic) press, academic research and policy discussions. The debate on re-shoring is very lively, but considerable disagreement exists about how important this trend actually is. Different terms such as reshoring, back-shoring, near-shoring and onshoring are often used interchangeably and largely contribute to the confusion surrounding this new phenomenon.

This paper brings together the available evidence, not in an attempt to prove who is right or wrong in the discussion – the issues raised by reshoring will most likely not be settled for quite some time – but rather to understand how important reshoring is, not only as regards its impact on individual companies but also from a more aggregate economy-wide view. The paper also discusses the phenomenon of reshoring in more detail, by unpacking the concept itself and analysing the different motivations why companies choose to reshore activities. In doing so, the paper aims to help guide the policy discussions on reshoring in light of the actions and plans that haven been taken by some governments in OECD countries.

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