Employment in Agriculture

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Max Roser (2017) – ‘Employment in Agriculture’. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: https://ourworldindata.org/employment-in-agriculture [Online Resource]

As countries develop, the share of the population working in agriculture is declining. While more than 2/3 of the population in poor countries work in agriculture, less than 5% of the population does in rich countries. It is predominantly the huge productivity increase that makes this reduction in labor possible.
Similarly the productivity increase makes it possible to reduce the agricultural land needed to feed a given number of people.

# Empirical View

# Long-Run Perspective: 1300 to Today

Share of the labor force working in agriculture, 1300-20121

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# Absolute size and share of the agricultural labor force in England, the Netherlands, and France, 1500-2000 – Simon (1996)2
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# Absolute size and share of the agricultural labor force in the USA, 1800-2000 – Simon (1996)3
Absolute-size-and-share-of-the-agricultural-labor-force-of-the-USA-1800-2000-Simon-1996.png

# Share employed in agriculture

The map shows the share employed in agriculture country by country. Three quarters of the labor force in a poor country like Madagascar are employed in agriculture. In rich countries like Germany or the UK it is only 1 in 100 who is employed in agriculture.

# Agricultural labor force and rural population by continent, 1960-2005 – World Development Report (2008)4
Agricultural labor force and rural population by Continent (1960-2005) – World Development Report (2008)0

# Women in agriculture


# Correlates, Determinants & Consequences

# The importance of the agricultural sector declines as the economy grows

# Value added in the agricultural sector is low in prosperous economies

The visualisation shows that the importance of the agricultural sector is small in rich countries. In countries with a GDP per capita over 15,000 int.-$ less than 10% of the value added in the economy comes from the agricultural sector.

# Few people are employed in the agricultural sector in prosperous economies

# Labor productivity in agriculture

# Data Quality & Definition

Labor requirements are considerably higher for vegetables than for cereals, as shown in the graph below.

# Average number of labor days per hectare for cereals and vegetables – World Development Report (2008)5
Average number of labor days per hectare – World Development Report (2008)

# Data Sources

# World Bank – World Development Indicators
  • Data: ‘Employment in agriculture (% of total employment)’ – women only, men only, total.
  • Geographical coverage: Global – by country and world region.
  • Time span: Since 1980
  • Available at: World Bank website – ‘Employment in agriculture (% of total employment)’ is here.
  •  Szirmai (2005) publishes data on the agricultural labor force for some countries for the time 1950 to 2000 on his website. These data are also taken from (older publications of) the World Bank.

# International Labour Organization (ILO)
  • Data: Agriculture workers as % of labor force
  • Geographical coverage: Global
  • Time span: Since 1980
  • Available at: The website of the ILO – and in a ready to use format on Gapminder here.