Monday, January 09, 2012

Peak Farmer

In what year will the most farmers ever be working? We reached peak baby in 1990 and peak manufacturing employee slightly later.

Mass employment in manufacturing just isn't coming back
'I estimate global manufacturing employment to have been between 150 million and 200 million workers in 2002, with those numbers reflecting a global decline of 20-30 million manufacturing employees in 2002 compared to 1995.'

You can never tell exactly what the future will hold but with the increasing use of robots points to reduced manufacturing jobs for example "Foxconn to rely more on robots; could use 1 million in 3 years". Agricultural employment as a percentage of total employment has been declining since the industrial revolution. The percentage of Americans employed in agriculture has dropped from over 90% at the time of the American revolution to around 2% now for example.

The UN says peak rural population will be sometime between 2020-2025. "However between 2020 and 2025, the total rural population will peak and then start to decline," and "Global rural populations will peak in the 2020s, leading to mass abandonment of rural lands.(Data Source: UN Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division)". Not all rural people are farmers and I think the proportion of farmers amongst rural dwellers is decreasing. If the figures of peak rural population being sometime 2020-2025 then that means the most farmers that will ever be living will occur sometime before 2020.

The first time in human history since the agricultural revolution that most people were not employed as farmers would have been some time before urban population passed rural population. The World Population Becomes More Urban Than Rural in around 2007 so we are not long past the majority of people being farmers. 'Agriculture still accounts for about 45 per cent of the world’s labour force, or about 1.3 billion people' according to this 2007 report. Until recently most people were farmers.

The world continues to urbainse, farms continue to mechanise and population continues to rise slower than it used to. All this means that sometime before 2020 farming will become globally a declining employer. If total farming and manufacturing jobs are declining and transport jobs could do the same soon that means we will have to find new things for people to do.

This prediction of declining numbers of farmers globally sometime around 2020 is one that someone with better google foo could disprove quickly, if you can please correct me in the comments.

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