Proceedings

PR – Agricultural & Non-agricultural Rural Employment In The EU: Issues And Strategies, With Special Reference To Accession & Candidate Countries

Rural unemployment and rural depopulation are common concerns of European countries, especially the new EU accession and candidate countries. The context for this paper is the substantial change in labour requirements, opportunities and responses of the labour force following the collapse of communism, coupled with the current emphasis on market liberalisation. Associated changes in the structure of farming are reviewed, with special reference to a commonly observed polarisation between small, semi-subsistence farms (sometimes operating as ‘hobby’ farms) and the far fewer emergent large, commercial farms. Diversification into alternative farm-based economic activities – such as agri-tourism and various types of ecotourism, on-farm processing of raw farm products – is considered. Using recent data, the paper explores the current issues involved in rural employment in Europe. A digest of trends in a number of countries is presented and an exploration of common and contrasting elements follows, together with diagrams/illustrations. In particular, these data are reviewed in relation to The Lisbon Strategy of 2000 and the actual trends measured since that date in a selection of countries. Issues of unemployment, hidden unemployment, under-employment and ‘the grey economy’ are covered. Changes in labour migration patterns are discussed in relation to the social, contractual and economic consequences of these changes. Contrasts are presented between employment opportunities for rural and urban, male and female, oldest and youngest, well-educated and less educated (especially in regard to appropriate rural vocational education and training). Shortcomings of The Lisbon Strategy are examined and a case is made for some alternative strategy elements in the light of environmental, livelihood and international relations imperatives. These concomitant matters demand management with ingenuity, determination and long-term vision. The paper concludes by suggesting recommended management approaches for both policy-makers and rural enterprise practitioners.

Keywords: rural depopulation, labour, diversification.

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Author(s): Turner, M.M., Wibberley, E.J.

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Organizations(s): Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, University of Exeter, Devon