Employment Intensity of Growth in Agriculture (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report)

What is the evidence on the agribusiness sectors in developing countries and conflict affected states?



What is the key evidence on the employment intensity of growth of the agricultural, and particularly the agribusiness, sectors in middle-, low-income and fragile and conflict affected states. How does this vary by gender?

Key findings

Employment intensity of growth of the agricultural sector is a measure used to quantify the effect from growth in the agricultural sector on levels of employment. Existing research suggests that growth of the agricultural sectors in middle- and low-income countries (including fragile and conflict affected states) does not necessarily lead to increased employment. In fact, the relationship between employment and growth of agriculture is complex and highly context-dependent. The relationship varies as a result of the type of produce (e.g. fruits and vegetables versus cereals), the structure of the business (e.g. small landowner versus larger agribusiness) and the wider economy as a whole.

Growth of the secondary and tertiary sectors in an economy and non-farm income opportunities can reduce the supply of cheap and available labour. Social factors such as migration, and in particular rural to urban migration, can have a similar effect. Though smallholder agriculture tends to be more labour-intensive, evidence suggests that these high levels of employment intensity are difficult to sustain when agricultural activities are scaled up. Whereas labour from family members is cost-effective, the cost to supervise staff and maintain quality is often prohibitively expensive.

In relation to gender, some regions show a significant difference in employment intensity of growth between men and women. Women can face discrimination in agriculture, including in larger agribusiness, but agribusiness can also provide new and unique employment opportunities for women.


Rao, S. Employment Intensity of Growth in Agriculture (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2012) 17 pp.

Employment Intensity of Growth in Agriculture (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report)

Published 1 January 2012