The EU’s agriculture sector is facing pressing challenges among which gender and age gaps are critical. The challenge of attracting more young people and more females to the agriculture sector in particular is a significant global issue requiring research, investment and strategic action plans to overcome.
Two Horizon 2020 projects, DEMETER and SmartAgriHubs (SAH), supported by VistaMilk, both promoting the digital transformation of the European agri-food sector, brought together their knowledge and expertise to highlight the current status of gender inequality and the growing opportunities within farming.
The report, the changing face of agriculture; focusing on gender, youth and technology, summarises the work completed by DEMETER and SAH Regional Cluster Ireland & UK, following a series of webinars and discussions with farmers, experts, policymakers, researchers and technology providers.
It has been widely recognised that the agricultural sector needs to face the challenge of filling the generational gap in order to keep its competitiveness on a global level. Farm succession schemes play a key role in keeping the farming business moving forward, while being respectful to the senior generation.
Women represent some 30% of the total workforce in agriculture, forestry and fisheries across Europe with considerable disparities between countries. Though employment rates in general have been increasing in recent years, the employment rate of rural women is consistently lower than for rural men, and income for rural women is lower than that of rural men in all EU member states. In addition, rural women are more likely than men to work in the informal economy and on a part time basis.
Supporting female farmers
In response to this, the EU is committed to supporting female farmers and for the first time in the history of the CAP, member states will be required to assess the status of women in farming and in rural areas and address these challenges in their strategic plans.
The report highlights that gender equity as well as generational replacement, are a must to guarantee the future of the EU’s farming sector and its leading role in the global market. This substantial shift the global agricultural sector needs to experience, can be only achieved by attracting the new generation’s workforce to rural areas to perform a wide range of diverse and challenging job opportunities. Priority must be given to launch initiatives that efficiently promote work opportunities for the youth which demonstrate how agriculture is using and benefiting from technology, digital tools, and science, and creating leading roles for women in the farming sector.
Education, training and public investment
Education, training, and public investment (infrastructures, connectivity, funds, policies) are key to accelerate and ensure the successful future of the EU’s agriculture sector.
Undeniably, filling the gender and age gap will contribute not just to strengthening the EU farming sector, but also in reflecting a modern profitable sustainable business paradigm which can become a model for the worldwide farming market and inspire the developing countries from agronomic, technological, business and human rights perspectives.