Journal Article

Agricultural Employment Trends in Asia and Africa: Too Fast or Too Slow?

Derek Headey, Dirk Bezemer and Peter B. Hazell

in The World Bank Research Observer

Published on behalf of World Bank

Volume 25, issue 1, pages 57-89
Published in print February 2010 | ISSN: 0257-3032
Published online February 2010 | e-ISSN: 1564-6971 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/wbro/lkp028
Agricultural Employment Trends in Asia and Africa: Too Fast or Too Slow?

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Contrary to conventional economic theories, the relationship between income growth and agricultural employment is extremely diverse, even among regions starting from similar levels of development, such as Asia and Africa. Due to its labor-intensive Green Revolution and strong farm–nonfarm linkages, Asia's development path is mostly characterized by fast growth with relatively slow agricultural exits. In contrast to Asia, urban biased policies, low rural population density, and high rates of population growth have led a number of African countries down a path of slow economic growth with surprisingly rapid agricultural exits. Despite this divergence both continents now face daunting employment problems. Asia appears to be increasingly vulnerable to rising inequality, slower job creation, and shrinking farm sizes, suggesting that Asian governments need to refocus on integrating smallholders and lagging regions into increasingly commercialized rural and urban economies. Africa, in contrast, has yet to achieve its own Green Revolution, which would still be a highly effective tool for job creation and poverty reduction. However, the diversity of its endowments and its tighter budget constraints mean that agricultural development strategies in Africa need to be highly context specific, financially sustainable, and more evidence-based.

Keywords: O13; O15; O18

Journal Article.  12530 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic Development

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