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back to article Customisation is BAD for the economy, say Oz productivity wonks

Australia's Productivity Commission is complaining that high-value, highly-customised – artesan, in fact – products are a drag on national productivity. In its latest productivity report, the nation's flint-eyed economists have decided that the best thing for the economy is for every possible product to sink into an identical …

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Ignoring the fact that the plastic-bagged rubbish barely passes as "bread" perhaps the economists should recognise that we are not all the same.

What do they expect us to do? Dress in one-size-fits-all uniforms? Take up identical jobs? Assimilate into the Borg? Good luck with that.

We all have different skills and abilities, placing us in different roles in the community and workplace, with different interests, and different tastes. The economy is there to serve us humans and conform to our needs, not the other way around.

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Yep. Here in Germany there would be riots in the streets if you tried to take away their local bakeries and force them to eat "sandwich" bread.

It was nice having the choice of 10 - 15 different types of bread each day. Having developed a gluten intollerance means the subject is pretty moot, I have to eat rice wafers or bake my own bread - the shop bought gluten free tastes like cardboard, is half the size and costs 5 times as much as a normal loaf.

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try Ireland

Gluten intolerance is so common here there are usually a half dozen gluten free bread brands in a local supermarket (plus gluten free beer etc)

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Anonymous Coward

sp

artisan?

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Unspeakable, Uneatable.

Blame British blotting-paper bread on the 1961 Chorleywood Process, or earlier, on wartime necessity to squeeze more bread out of less flour.

However they rebrand it -- Mothers Pride, Wonderloaf, Kingsmill, Warburtons -- I won't eat it.

I now buy rye or rye/wheat or sourdough bread -- sometimes from Sainbury's in-store bakery, usually from one of the recently arrived Polish brands. The latter offer an 800g loaf for around £1 -- so actually better value than the British factory pap.

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Re: Unspeakable, Uneatable.

>Polish brands. The latter offer an 800g loaf for around £1

I wish... A decent loaf of bread in Melbourne is likely to set you back $5.50 - $6.50. Don't even get me started on the abomination which is Baker's Delight. I believe it's named after the profit margins which delight the bakers, because the produce is mostly air.

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Re: Unspeakable, Uneatable.

We gave up on mass bread a while ago..a domestic bread machine producing one loaf a day works for us.. She Who Must Be Obeyed experimented with various blends of flour, bran, seeds yeast etc.. now the bread comes out reliably every time using unskilled assistance (me) . since the loaves are small, no wastage with stale bread heels..

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I think what they were trying to say is "the commoditization of products essential to daily life is good."

How this got framed as a treatise on the evils of posh bread, only god knows. I think hiring a few good copy writers would do their cause the world of good.

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FAIL

No, I think what they meant was that the Productivity Commission is thoroughly unproductive.

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This writing of individual reports

by different government departments for different committees is a drain on national productivity.

It would be much more cost-effective to have a single report stressing the need for greater automation, fewer teenage pregnancies and higher broadband speeds which can be wheeled out whenever a government white paper is required. 1 civil servant could be relied on to redraft the template and deliver it 6 months late as per normal public sector requirements and therefore only another 2 or 3 thousand would be needed to supervise him and provide management accountability to ensure value for taxpayers' money.

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Pass the brain bleach

I'm trying not to think of something which requires greater automation, fewer teenage pregnancies, and higher broadband speeds. It's not going well.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This writing of individual reports

I think this is meant as satire rather than a serious suggestion, but given how government is actually structured it's eerily hard to be sure.

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Coat

Re: Pass the brain bleach

Skynet?

Oh wait, right, that won't end well. Mine's the leather trenchcoat all ripped up from eking out a survival in the post-robot-uprising apocalyptic wasteland.

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Pint

Inefficient? maybe

Spreading more wealth around by employing more people and selling higher value goods? Certainly!

Pint because I would hate to have to drink generic ale.

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Indeed, who in their right minds would think it's bad that there's demand for higher-quality products that require more people (read: more job openings) to make? Only in guberment-land would this be seen as a problem...

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Pint

"Pint because I would hate to have to drink generic ale."

Yes. Heaven forfend that we all end up with Fosters or Castlemain XXXX as the only choice of "ale". Their next target will be the craft breweries.

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Ail?

Spelling right?

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Premise is correct, conclusion is completely wrong

Yes, providing exactly one model of anything maximises productivity.

The correct conclusion is: there is something seriously wrong with this definition of "productivity".

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Re: Premise is correct, conclusion is completely wrong

> The correct conclusion is: there is something seriously wrong with this definition of "productivity".

Too true. It appears he's following the economist/banker line of using "productivity" and "efficiency" to mean the productivity and efficiency of capital, not people- i.e. ROI. In the simplistic economist/macro view, people are just a "factor of production."

Thus, it is more "productive" to have 5 Chinese prison workers making a widget and ship the parts around the world, than it is to use 1 person and a machine.

Of course it is true that Australian wages are out of control, so in that sense, using people is particularly inefficient in Australia. Italian tomatoes shipped from the other side of the world are cheaper than Australian ones.

I suspect Oz is headed for a very uncomfortable late arrival at the GFC table. House prices are way out of control compared to salaries and salaries are out of control too.

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Re: Premise is correct, conclusion is completely wrong

"Italian tomatoes shipped from the other side of the world are cheaper than Australian ones."

A bit like taking coal to Newcastle. Oh, wait. We do. Aussie coal, shipped from the other side of the world is cheaper than mining our own :-(

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Warning sign

Quote from the article, in turn quoting the paper:

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Even worse, it's really difficult to come up with any way to measure the economic value of product quality: “the higher quality of some of the output produced with these additional inputs may not be fully reflected in the measures of real value added growth for the subsector”.

---

In other words, "I can't find a solid number for this, so I'll just ignore it".

Be wary, be very wary, of any paper, in any subject, where any variant of that concept is expressed.

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Re: Warning sign

Worse, not only is it an admission that the entire report is without value, it is also an admission that they are trying to answer the wrong questions.

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Facepalm

Productivity Commission is Redundant

Joke Alert= the fatal flaw in this is they published something that others got to look at...

as an out of step, out of time relic from the 1950's they got along just fine, getting funded and all...

and then in a moment, everything now hinged on their report (that should have been posted in that 'local journal of commerce' that no one ever reads)...RS.

note= BMW motor car company is very proud of the fact that just about every new car they sell is a 'Custom Job'...

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Re: Productivity Commission is Redundant

"note= BMW motor car company is very proud of the fact that just about every new car they sell is a 'Custom Job'..."

Only BMW drivers believe that shite. BMW are a volume car maker. All major components are standardised, and the trick is to offer a few options that the gullible can believe amounts to "customisation". By the dictionary definition that BMW use, every single Ford Fiesta is a custom job.

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Pint

Supply and Demand

"it's really difficult to come up with any way to measure the economic value of product quality:"

It's actually trivial: how much more can you charge for it?

Mine's a pint of real ale, possibly from an inefficient micro/craft brewery. Or maybe a proper cider from a small cider maker (as opposed to a generic brewer).

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Dear god

We're not robots in a factory, striving to achieve all of our dreams in the "most efficient manner possible".

I don't bother learning to drive, and use public transport extensively, because I value the ability to relax whilst traveling long distances over the shortest possible journey time.

I love to cook my own food because I enjoy it, because I enjoy being able to vary end product and because (god damn it) the slight unpredictability of the output makes it more interesting.

Sometimes, I go to the corner shop instead of the supermarket because I value the convenience over the cheaper product.

If I could find a job that pays a similar rate but less hours, you know what .... I'd probably take that as well because maximising the amount of money I can produce in a day is NOT the sole purpose of my life.

What's more, food is probably a poor example because I'm pretty sure we're producing more than we need to feed everyone. We're just distributing it poorly and prioritising profit over people, now that IS an inefficiency worth thinking about.

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Hypocrites

I bet after they published that report they went out for a nice dinner in an upmarket restaurant.

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Sugar-infused fluff?

The sugar is probably the least of our worries. Take a look with your favourite search engine at the various emulsifiers, extenders and so-called improvers that are added to industrial bread.

It's small wonder that increasing numbers of people suffer from coeliac disease and gastrointestinal disorders.

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More like inhibits the efficiency of wealth extraction

Small companies keep more people employed and more money flowing around amongst the peons. Thus impeding the efficiency of the corporations in collecting money and concentrating it at the top.

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Re Stuart Longland

I only down voted you to prove i'm Different :)

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This post has been deleted by its author

hah now the big boys are saying...

Dey turk errr jurbs...

Thank you South Park

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