Due to the abandonment of farms and increasing digitization, fewer and fewer people are working in agriculture in Germany. From March 2019 to February 2020, there were approximately 938,000 workers according to the so-called agricultural census of 2020. This is approximately 15% less than the last survey ten years ago, as the Federal Office announced on Monday. statistics. At the same time, the number of companies fell by around 13%. The average number of 3.6 workers per company has thus remained almost stable. The number of workers per 100 hectares of land used, on the other hand, fell sharply, from 6.6 to 5.6. This is mainly due to the growing size of farms and the advancement of mechanization and digitalization of agriculture.
“Agriculture is more rationalized – that is, labor is replaced by capital,” said Deputy Secretary General of the German Farmers’ Association Udo Hemmerling. “Today around 600,000 euros are invested in machinery and buildings for every job in agriculture – and the trend is on the rise.” Since 47 percent of farm managers are 55 and over, there is also a big generational shift to come in the near future. “In animal husbandry in particular, we fear structural disruptions with the increase in operational tasks,” said Hemmerling. Here, farmers are faced with increasing environmental regulations and consumer wishes for better animal welfare, and in addition there are producer prices that threaten their very existence. Investments in the future are often no longer possible.
Nearly half of the agricultural workforce – about 434,400 people – were members of the family of sole proprietorships, according to the statistics office. In addition, 228,900 permanent and 274,700 seasonal employees worked in companies. Regional differences in business structures are also reflected in employment: in 2020, family workers working in sole proprietorships predominated in the west with around 408,600 people, or 51% of the total workforce. Only 19 percent are permanent employees, 30 percent are seasonal workers. In the East, due to the large number of partnerships and legal entities, the permanent workforce dominates with 55 percent (135,000 people). Only 19 percent are family members.
There are a lot of seasonal workers, especially in countries with a strong focus on fruit, vegetables and viticulture such as Rhineland-Palatinate (50 percent of all workers), Hamburg and Brandenburg. About a third of the workforce around farms are women, while the figure for seasonal workers is 43 percent. However, only one in nine businesses in 2020 was run by a woman.