Artisanal Bread And Wine Might Be Bad For Australia's Economy

Super-Specific Artisanal Goods Might Be Bad for the Economy

You'd think a renewed focus on handmade products would be good for a country's economy. That's not the sentiment in Australia, with a new report claiming that handcrafted industries which require more employee hours, like bread baking and winemaking, are to blame for the country's sagging productivity.

The Australian Productivity Commission has determined that the handmade trend is not good for business. Specifically, the study points its fingers at artisanal bread, which apparently requires twice as many working bakers to produce the same amount of loaves: "Bakery product manufacturing is likely to have contributed to lower measures of productivity." Winemakers fared even worse in the study, accused of pouring more money and resources into their process, even with falling demand for Australian grapes.

But wait a minute, wouldn't people be paying more for that fancy bread, therefore making up for the extra time that's required to make it? Also, how many artisanal bakers could there possibly be in Australia? There are certainly plenty of factories still churning out Kleenexy white bread. The trouble, at least as I have heard from some designers, is that these higher-quality products don't always find a market, even when they're made responsibly with better materials. The market can only support so many artisanal goods.

However, I do like imagining a growing group of revolting Australian business owners who are eschewing the idea of productivity all in the name of bottling quality shiraz — it's almost like a rejection of the Industrial Revolution. [Australian Financial Review]

AP Photo/Bob Edme, File


Comments

    This seems utterly facile (the Productivity Commission report, not this article) - just because you don't have a quantitative measure of quality (37% more delicious bread, perhaps?) you should discount that quality difference?

    Totally confused by this article. A product is "not good for business" if they can't sell something they make for a decent profit. Artisan goods sell or else the business would have gone bust. Perhaps the author meant its got good for Australia's GDP as the ratio of product to labour is a lot lower.

    The real reason for any lack of productivity in Australia is the failure of big business (and government) to invest in new plant and equipment.

    So funny i overheard a local baker in a fairly affluent suburb complain that he couldn't compete with the super markets. I remember thinking are you crazy? Coles and Woolies can by prebaked bread from mega factories in Ireland ship it over here and sell it as fresh. Why on earth would one guy running a family business try and fight it out with that business model?

    Artisan bread in Melbs and Sydney from what I can see is going through a renaissance. Particularly I hear Iggies (syd) and Baker D. Chirico (melbs). More power to them! if we end up with better product like the coffee that has come up over the last few years we are on a winner.

      Exactly, you cant fight the supermarkets for cheap white bread, so why try? Make something better than the supermarkets are capable of, you might make less with more effort, but if you can charge more money, sounds like you're on a winner.

    As others have said, the Productivity Commission's view is based on a simplistic and mistaken view of productivity. In particular, they seem to be looking at the number of loaves of bread produced pr employee, or some similar measure. It ignores the real basis of productivity (net individual utility) in favour of a simple dollar measure.

    It's a viewpoint that values quantity over quality, short-term profit over the actual value inherent in goods and services.

    They really need to go back to University and re-do Microeconomics 101.

    The amoral logic of capitalism, quality has little value, productivity derives profit, workers superfluous.

    Why would we think that "a renewed focus on handmade products would be good for a country’s economy"?

    Look up "The Story of Solutions" on google and "Gross National Happiness" if you are interested in the story behind this story....

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