According to the latest figures published on May 7 by Eurostat, the European Statistics Office, 3.7 million full-time jobs (i.e. 25% of the total number of jobs) vanished from the agricultural sector in the European Union between 2000 and 2009.
The drop in the number of jobs in the sector was particularly significant in new EU Member States, such as Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland and Romania, where the number of persons employed in agriculture fell by over 30% due to concentrated production and the modernization of production systems. These phenomena also explain the simultaneous increase of over 60% in the income of agricultural workers in these countries.
What’s more serious, though, is the situation in older Member States, where the decrease in the number of jobs in the agricultural sector, even if lower than that posted in new Member States, cannot be separated from the drop in real income (10% on average in 10 years). For the year 2009 alone, Eurostat recorded a decrease of 12% on average per worker, but this figure was much higher for some countries, such as France (down 19%), Luxembourg (down 25%) and Ireland (down 24%).
For the time being, European production is continuing to increase (up 4% for the period), thanks to the considerable gains in productivity generated by the 12 countries which joined the European Union in 2004 and 2007. But these gains in productivity in the East cannot last forever. We must be careful what we sow – what will we do once these gains in productivity are exhausted in the East, if there are no more farmers in the West?
Only a common regulatory policy which limits the volatility of agricultural prices, and therefore incomes, can ensure that agricultural production will continue in the long term - and on the whole of European territory.