How is Australia's unemployment rate so low if we do so little in the way of local manufacturing these days?
There are a few reasons for this, all adding up to a rational answer.
First up, the baby boomers (Australia's largest generation and the largest generation in some other countries) have been busy retiring en masse for over 10 years, and there are plenty more to retire over the next several years.
One of Australia's solutions to this loss of labour force was the baby bonus introduced in the 2002 federal budget (after the Aussie birth rate hit a record low in 2001), while Canada's current strategy to address the challenge of an aging population is immigration.
There's a lot more to it than that, though. More than 75 per cent of the Australian workforce is categorised as being in the service industry.
However, plenty of things still get made in this rather broad category, from cafe coffees to landscaped gardens. Many services don't count as manufacturing simply because they're not packaged up as products to sell; they are made to order for the individual customer on the spot.
To return to our question, though, many local entrepreneurs have taken matters into their own hands to employ themselves gainfully.
Because the thing is, manufacturing isn't just large-scale factories. Lots of boutique and custom products are made on a much smaller scale. Sometimes so small in scale that it's a single person working from home. Such small-scale operations can include products like scented candles, artworks of various kinds, content creation for various platforms, novelty face masks, gourmet pet food and treats, and much more.
Some of the common small-ish operations around Australia that do have a business premise can include jewellery, craft beer, winemaking, and all sorts of other crafts from stuffed toys to home decor.
Custom and tailored clothing, from sleepwear to formal wear, is another category that can usually be found locally in many populated centres.
Repairs are another service that requires the skills to make things to make them again function as good as new.
Replacement or custom keys for cars, homes or businesses are also a local service that requires something to be made. And before you say that keys are made from a blank, where did the fabric, wax, ingredients, components or other sources of raw or unfinished material come from for other things that often get made locally?
The same goes for homes and almost all other large buildings. They, too, had to be made (at least assembled) right where they stand, but they require a mix of manufactured parts and local services to be assembled and fitted out.
So please don't say we don't make anything here anymore: we make plenty.