According to the World Bank, agriculture is the largest employer in the world: it concerned 30% of the working population in 2010. Although in relative reduction (38% in 2000), the number of farm workers is increasing because of population growth and now exceeds a billion people.
Relations between capital and labor, family and paid workers, and more widely, forms of work organization (taylorism, delegation, mutual aid and co-operation) crystallize around standard models of “farming systems” combining a variety of productive ambitions, degrees of mechanization/automation and forms of labor organization:
- “high tech” models with high work productivity where the farmer and highly-skilled employees analyze and interpret increasingly more precise information systems on crop and animal productions,
- models favoring family-run agroecology, sometimes with paid workers and mutual aid, turned towards local food circuits,
- agribusiness models on a very large scale, delegating the planning of rotations and technical operations to agricultural work enterprises and agronomic engineers,
- subsistence community farming models with sales of surplus.
These models only represent the extremes, as the majority of farms borrow more or less from one or other of them, but they help thoughts about diversity.
Transformations of farming systems are marked by increasingly important challenges regarding the environment and food safety, and by the dynamics of sectors subjected to requirements of quality and competitiveness. How do these transformations bring farming work into question? But farming work has also kept a very strong social and territorial dimension: it gives a place and a status to everyone; it nurtures, safeguards and stabilizes a rural population, and strengthens solidarities largely founded on a local cultural relationship with nature and the “mesnage des champs et des animaux” (agriculture and livestock management) an expression borrowed from one of the founders of agronomy, the Frenchman Olivier de Serres (1539 - 1619). The economic, social and environmental functions of farming work coexist. In rural territories, they may sometimes be complementary, but they can also be quite strained.
An international symposium on «work in agriculture »
The aims of the International Symposium on Work in Agriculture, organized at the University of Maringá in Brazil from 8 to 11 November 2016 are:
- to capitalize on knowledge of changes in farming work,
- to take into account the diversity and dynamics of the forms of work organization in different farming models (family-based, agribusiness, high-tech…),
- to reflect on the future of the work of men and women, family workers and paid employees
SWA website: http://sites.uem.br/symposiumwa2016