Fewer young people entering agriculture

A study funded by the Rural Industries R&D Corporation has found that the number of younger farmers entering agriculture continues to fall and that since 1991 the population of farmers aged over 65 has increased by 55 per cent.

The report, titled New entrants to Australian agricultural industries – where are all the young farmers? used Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) population census data from the eight censuses conducted between 1976 to 2011 to examine the current demographic structure of the Australian farmer population. The report quantifies the extent of structural ageing in the Australian farm sector, examines the behaviours that are causing structural ageing and explores the social, demographic and economic conditions that influence these behaviours.

The study found that the number of farmers aged under 35 years of age has fallen by 75% since 1976. The most important factor in this fall has been falling numbers of farms due to farm aggregation, leaving fewer opportunities for younger people to enter agriculture.

The report states that another reason for declining numbers of younger farmers is a fall in the recruitment of the youngest farmers (under 25 years) relative to the recruitment of other entrants. A large proportion of this relative decline in recruitment can be explained by factors that are common with the rest of the Australian labour market, including structural ageing of the Australian workforce and delayed entry to the workforce due to longer years spent in education.

However, despite these figures the study concluded that there is little cause for concern over any link between farm sector structural ageing, low recruitment of younger persons into agriculture and food security.

The changes observed in the study will have a variety of implications for rural communities, including the types of services and support that may be required to support these communities in the future.

This project was funded by RIRDC and undertaken by Neil Barr from the Victorian Department of Primary Industries.

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Posted 3 April 2014