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A Handicraft to Mouth Existence

Changing Tastes and a Global Economic Downturn Decimating Baliís Handicraft Sector

(5/19/2013) The prolonged global economic crisis has seen many of the companies involved in the export of Balinese handicrafts cease operations.

At the same time, the desire or ability of consumers to purchase local handicrafts is on the decline among both foreign and domestic visitors to Bali.

Traditional craftsmen, for whom the production of handicrafts has been a family trade passed on from one generation to the next, are now seeking new fields of work. Some have become farmers, coolies at local construction sites or workers in private industry.

According to Bisnis Bali, I Wayan Budi, a Denpasar resident who created handicrafts for more than a dozen years has seen his daily income decrease from US$7.50 to just US$2.50. Recently, however, his income had dropped to zero on many days due to the lack of sales.

Said Wayan Budi: “We are seeing the handicraft sector as holding little promise for the future. The condition is very bad. Sudden last minute orders have all but disappeared. Friends in the same business say that many former buyers have gone bankrupt.”

I Wayan Leder, a statuette maker from Bangli, also complains that the handicraft market has collapsed. Unable to live any longer from his meager income as a skilled handicraft maker, Leder now works as a collie on a building site where he can earn US$5 a day. Bali’s building boom at least offers a more certain source of income than creating souvenirs for sale to tourist or for exporters.

One observer of the handicraft sector, Drs. I Dewa Ngurah Dharendra, estimated that at its peak 25,000 people worked as handicraft makers. By extrapolating that each worker provided an income for a family of five, a total of 125,000 Balinese were dependent on the handicraft sector. That number is, however, clearly on the decline with fewer and fewer Balinese able to eek a livelihood from the production and sale of handicraft items.