Stats show decrease in farm employment

Approximately 20 000 jobs in agriculture were shed between March and June this year.

- Advertisement -

A study by Dr Frikkie Liebenberg, economist at the University of Pretoria, showed that the decrease could be attributed to seasonal fluctuations and the dramatic increase in the minimum wage. The study was undertaken amid contradicting statistics on farm labour, some of which claim massive job losses after the new minimum wage was instituted in March.

In the year to June, employment in agriculture stood at 672 000, up from 568 000 for the corresponding period in 2011. Farm workers make up 5% of South Africa’s workforce, with 52% of these workers employed on commercial farms.Liebenberg said the general trend had shown a steady increase in agricultural employment over the past few years, especially of permanent employees. “Farmers are mechanising, so they need more skilled labour. Training workers is an investment, so farmers would prefer to make these workers permanent,” he explained.

- Advertisement -

Liebenberg noted that mechanisation also meant that the second half of the year could show a further decline in seasonal farm labourers. Working family members in agriculture currently stood at 3 582, compared with 20 428 in 1993. “A surprising feature is that this class of labour in agriculture has almost entirely disappeared in the former homeland areas and has been absent in urban agriculture since 2010,” said Liebenberg.

“The precipitous drop in the number of farmers and the waning involvement of family members in farming spells disaster for the long (term) sustainability of agriculture.” South Africa had 50 332 farmers in 2009, but this declined to 34 905 by 2012, a decrease of 15 427 in just three years.

Twitter: @lindi83