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Migration & Feminisation in Global Agriculture – A United Nations Perspective

The share of international migrants in destination countries is increasing – especially in high-income countries – and has started posing social challenges as migrants are often perceived as competitors for jobs and threat to wage levels

Poverty, climate change, conflict and competition for natural resources are expected to fuel more distress migration. Conflicts, violence and natural disasters are among the root causes of migration and forced displacement. However, many migrants are compelled to move because of socioeconomic factors, including poverty, food insecurity, lack of employment opportunities, limited access to social protection, natural resource depletion and the adverse impacts of environmental degradation and climate change.

The share of international migrants in destination countries is increasing – especially in high-income countries – and has started posing social challenges as migrants are often perceived as competitors for jobs and threat to wage levels. Nevertheless, in view of an ageing population and low fertility rates in several high-income countries, migration could provide benefits both for the recipient and the source countries.

However in India, principal source of income has a lot to do with the migration of social classes, it can be somehow generalised as to how entire South Asia does, a figure from ministry of statistics and program implementation suggests-

India’s Population Pyramid

The Feminisation

The feminization of agriculture not only increases the burden on women but also presents them with opportunities. As agriculture adopts laboursaving technologies, agricultural employment is expected to shrink, with both women and men moving into other sectors. However, while men may branch out of subsistence farming or of agriculture altogether, women in many low-income countries continue to stay in rural areas and work in agriculture, with trends towards agricultural feminization becoming prominent. In this role, women can improve gender inequality but only if they have a greater say in decision-making and in the control of household resources.

 While in most sub-Saharan African countries, women have always constituted a large part of the agricultural labour force, trends towards agricultural feminization are especially prominent in the Near East and North Africa and in South and Central Asia. Between 1980 and 2010, the share of women employed in agriculture increased from about 30 percent to 43 percent in North Africa, and from 35 per cent to 48 per cent in the Near East.

The growth in women’s share of agricultural employment is also apparent in a number of Latin American countries, including Chile, Ecuador and Peru.

Changes in food systems towards a more prominent role of commercial farms and increased consumption of processed food create some paid employment opportunities for women outside of family farms. However, there is evidence that women working on commercial farms and in packing houses of high value-added supply chains tend to be concentrated in labour-intensive, low-skilled jobs.

The expanding role of women in agriculture can be empowering if their input and decisions hold more sway at home as well. However, it may also exacerbate women’s workloads, as infrastructure and institutions in low-income countries are rarely adapted to supporting working women.

Even the father of green revolution in India, MS Swaminathan had given his serious views on the feminisation of agriculture. His perspective revolves around the involvement of women in agriculture at every level, in fact, he had proposed for it as a private member bill in the Indian parliament during his parliamentary tenure.


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migration united nations ms swaminathan agriculture


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