2015 Winter - Labour matters in Australian agriculture

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FPJ1202B, Potard, G & Keogh, M (2015), Labour Utilisation Trends in Australian Agriculture

FPJ1202B, Potard, G & Keogh, M (2015), Labour Utilisation Trends in Australian Agriculture, in Farm Policy Journal: Vol. 12 No. 2, Winter, pp. 1-15.

This paper reviews existing literature on agricultural labour productivity and efficiency, and analyses labour utilisation in Australian broadacre agriculture based on ABARES data from 1990 to 2014.

Mechanisation has greatly impacted agriculture removing numerous jobs from the sector, potentially reducing the significance of changes in the farm labour force as a means of lifting total farm productivity. However, the picture is more complex than it first appears. Australian farms have increased their labour efficiency and more than half of the labour force is now salaried or contracted. There is, however, important variability between agricultural sectors with the more noticeable changes in grain and the dairy industries. Grains farms have a lesser reliance on labour and a higher share of salaried/contracted labour. Dairy farms have seen the most noticeable decrease in the ratio of labour cost on total cost and a higher reliance on salaried/contracted labour over the last 25 years.

A key finding is that there are insufficient detailed data available to address the question of labour productivity in the Australian agriculture sector thoroughly. 

 

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