How Has the Number of Agricultural Workers Changed over Time?

In 1900, about half of the world's adult population were agriculture workers, but by 2011, only about 2% of the working population were working as paid agricultural workers. In 2005, there were about 450 million men and women being paid for farm-related work, and an estimated 1.1 billion farm laborers in total, meaning only about 40% are paid.

More facts about agricultural workers:

  • About 70% of all child workers work in agriculture — that's 130 million children under the age of 15.

  • 90% of agricultural workers are from Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Asia has the most farm workers of any region in the world, with about 70% of the world total. A further 20% work in Sub-Saharan Africa.

  • In Medieval Europe, an estimated 90% of the population worked on farms.

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Discussion Comments


This is a very interesting as it is astonishing data. As Anon289590 suggests, what does this mean for Africa in terms of food security and unemployment among the youth? Does this data about agricultural workers indicate those farming as a business or those employed by those farming as a business, or does it include those regarded as farming for subsistence?

Whereas on-farm workers have greatly decreased in Europe, there is probably a corresponding increase in off-farm jobs. What is the case in Africa?


Thanks for this wonderful and timely research and analysis, but I would like to see further research on this issue to try to analyze the danger this portends for future world food needs, especially as youths are hardly found on the farms theses days. This especially concerns Africa and more importantly, Nigeria, where the majority of the youth want white collar jobs or instant money.

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