Key facts about the world steel industry



Steel: A key driver of the world's economy

  • The industry directly employs more than two million people worldwide, with a further two million contractors and four million people in supporting industries.
  • Considering steel’s position as the key product supplier to industries such as automotive, construction, transport, power and machine goods, and using a multiplier of 25:1, the steel industry is at the source of employment for more than 50 million people.
  • World crude steel production has increased from 851 megatonnes (Mt) in 2001 to 1,606 Mt for the year 2013. (It was 28.3 Mt in 1900).
  • World average steel use per capita has steadily increased from 150kg in 2001 to 225 kg in 2013.
  • India, Brazil, South Korea and Turkey have all entered the top ten steel producers list in the past 40 years.



Sustainable steel: At the core of the green economy

Steel is at the core of the green economy, in which economic growth and environmental responsibility work hand in hand.

  • Steel is the main material used in delivering renewable energy – solar, tidal and wind.
  • All steel created as long ago as 150 years can be recycled and used in new products and applications.
  • By sector, global steel recovery rates for recycling are estimated at 85% for construction, 85% for automotive, 90% for machinery and 50% for electrical and domestic appliances. This leads to a global weighted average of more than 83%.
  • The amount of energy required to produce a tonne of steel has been reduced by 50% in the past 30 years.
  • 97% of steel by-products can be reused.
  • Figures for water uptake and discharge are close to each other, with any small loss due to evaporation. Water recycled back into rivers and other sources is often cleaner than when extracted.



Steel: Everywhere in our lives

Steel touches every aspect of our lives. No other material has the same unique combination of strength, formability and versatility.

  • Almost 200 billion cans of food are produced each year. Steel cans mean saving energy as refrigeration is not needed. Cans mean tamper-free and safe food, nutritional value and beneficial environmental impact from recycling.
  • Steel used for double-hulled capesize vessels delivering raw materials, finished goods and energy must have the highest impact toughness (to withstand constant wave motion), corrosion resistance (from sea water) and weldability (for manufacturing reasons).
  • Skyscrapers are made possible by steel. The housing and construction sector is the largest consumer of steel today, using around 50% of world steel production.
  • Approximately 25% of an average computer is made of steel. More than 305 million PCs were sold in 2012.
  • Steel looks after our health. Steel surfaces are hygienic and easy to clean. Surgical and safety equipment and commercial kitchens are all made with steel.



Safe, innovative and progressive steel

Steel is an innovative and progressive industry committed to the safety and health of its people.

  • The industry is committed to the goal of an injury-free workplace.
  • The lost-time injury frequency rate has decreased from 5.1 in 2004 to 1.41 in 2012.
  • The number of worldsteel member organisations participating in the annual safety metrics survey has increased from 46 in 2005 to 89 in 2012.
  • The steel industry globally spends more than €12 billion annually on improving the manufacturing process, new product development and future breakthrough technology.
  • New lightweight steel is dramatically changing the market. In 1937, 83,000 tonnes of steel were needed to build the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Today, only half of that amount would be required.
  • Vehicles structures using Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) weigh up to 35% less than those made with former conventional steel, substantially reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.



Life cycle thinking: New solutions for new times

  • Life cycle assessment (LCA) is vital for the future. Environmental regulations that only regulate one phase (the use phase) of a product’s life cycle can create unintended consequences, such as increased CO2 emissions.
  • One example of this is vehicle exhaust or tail pipe regulations, which encourage the use of low density materials that are more CO2 intensive to produce.
  • LCA considers production, manufacture, the use phase and end-of-life recycling and disposal. Life-cycle thinking leads to immediate environmental benefit.
  • In addition to CO2, LCA assesses other impacts such as resource consumption, energy demand and acidification.
  • LCA is easy to implement, cost effective and produces affordable and beneficial solutions for material decision-making and product design.
  • worldsteel developed one of the first global sector databases for life cycle inventory data, and invests on a regular basis to keep it up to date.

Updated: February 2014