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Customisation is BAD for the economy, say Oz productivity wonks

Bakers today, modders and makers tomorrow

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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 low-cost, indistinguishable grey goo, apparently, like the generic "food" from the 1984 cult classic Repo Man.

It states, for example, that multi-factor productivity in the bread business has declined because those pesky specialists are spoiling the numbers by employing more bakers. Consumer demand for “products like international-style breads and breads with healthy additives such as whole grains” means there's a small shift away from the sugar-infused fluff that dominates supermarket aisles.

That means the growth in that sector is greater in “shop-based bakeries than in centralised factories”, the commission writes.

“Shop-based bakeries, which are usually small scale and less automated, do not achieve the economies of scale of large factories. For example, more labour is used per dollar of value added produced in shop-based bakeries (in part also because they sell their products directly to the consumer) than in factory manufacture.”

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”.

At some point, El Reg is forced to speculate that the Productivity Commission will one day find out that there is a whole segment of the IT industry devoted to creating highly-customised, labour-intensive artesan products. Modders, be very, very afraid: your passion is eroding economic efficiency. Those of you creating bespoke software can also probably stop bringing the rest of us down. ®

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