Gewerbe und Handwerk#
Crafts and Trades: Scholarly research into crafts and trades began after World War II, when this sector of industry began to be seen as an economic activity in its own right, predominantly characterised by the intention to meet a highly differentiated demand through goods and services chiefly provided due to the personal efforts of the entrepreneur, his thorough training and skill and the use of his own means of production. Crafts and trades make up one section of the Wirtschaftskammer Oesterreich
In 1996 about 77,000 business establishments of this kind existed in Austria (= 37 % of all businesses registered with the Austrian Chamber of Commerce). The crafts and trades section of the Chamber had 142,000 members at that time, a figure that indicates a certain number of mixed businesses or multiple memberships, an increase of 38% on 1981.
Structural changes within the sector have for decades been characterised by increasing specialisation (e.g. in the case of mechanics), mechanisation, a higher degree of automation and a shift from production to repairs. Some small-scale industrial firms have also taken over some of the functions of trading firms (about 15% of turnover). After a period when companies tended to increase their number of employees (from 5 to 8) in the mid-seventies, the average size of Austrian companies has remained fairly stable. In 1902, 84.4% of such businesses employed less than three people (80% in 1939, 75,5% in 1954 and 61% in 1983). After 1983, the number of small-scale enterprises did not vary a great deal, though it tended to increase slightly (to 62% in 1988). In 1902, 29% of all workers were employed in small-scale enterprises, as against 15.5% in 1954 and 13% in 1988. For decades, businesses have been trying to enlarge their field of activity, with motorcar repair shops adding petrol stations and cafes to their services, etc. Blacksmiths are building and selling agricultural machinery, locksmiths are going into plumbing and fitting, saddle-makers are expanding their activities to include upholstering. On the other hand, more and more large manufacturing firms are becoming involved in craft and trade activities: Electric power companies, for example, install electrical devices and train apprentices, industrial firms in some branches are increasingly ready to install and repair their products. Still, the basic difference between industrial enterprises and the crafts and trades remains valid, as does the difference in their respective economic roles, i.e. satisfying uniform needs by the large-scale use of equipment vs. catering for individual demand by greater reliance on human resources. Further structural changes in crafts and trades activities are marked by a trend towards offering services, resulting in a significant increase in the foundation of companies from 1990 to 1995. Most of these provide business services in fields such as management consulting, information technologies, real estate sales and consulting and advertising.
In 1996, 31 % of all gainfully employed Austrians were employed in crafts and trades, the largest sector on the job-market (followed by the industry section with 24.1% and the trade section with 21.3%). The biggest branches of crafts and trades, where three-quarters of all workers were employed in 1996, were the building and ancillary trades (about 27 %), the metal-processing firms (about 27 %) and the service sector (about 22 %). Branches that used to be predominantly artisanal in character, such as food production and processing (approx. 8% in 1996), wood-working (approx. 7%) and clothing (approx. 2 %) have declined considerably in absolute and relative terms but remain on an equal footing with modern branches such as chemistry and synthetics processing (6%) or the printing trade (4% of total employment in the crafts and trades). Handicrafts