According to data from the European Commission in 2021, women represent some 30% of the total workforce in Agriculture, forestry and fisheries, but there are considerable differences between countries. For example in Austria, 40% of the agriculture workforce are women, and only 15% in Ireland. Data also shows that about a third of farms across the EU are managed by women, however just 4.2% of farm managers are under the age of 35, and 42% are over 65 so the gender gap could widen in future years. Employment rates have been increasing in recent years, however, the employment rate of rural women is consistently lower than for rural men, and income for rural women is lower than for rural men in all Member States. Rural women are also more likely than men to work in the informal economy and on part time basis. In response to this situation, the EU is committed to support female farmers, providing, for example, rural development funds to help young women get started in farming.
Equality between women and men is a core principle of the European Union. The European Commission has a holistic approach to gender equality. A Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 was put into place and one of its main objectives is to achieve equal participation of women across all different sectors of the economy including agriculture and rural development.
The CAP 2023-2027 has a stronger focus on promoting the participation of women in the socio-economic development of rural areas, with special attention to farming, supporting women’s key role. For the first time in the history of the CAP, a specific objective (number 8) refers explicitly to women by promoting gender equality, including the participation of women in farming. Member States will therefore be required to assess the situation of women in farming and in rural areas and address challenges to this end in their strategic plans. CAP funds and other funding sources will support;
- Investments into infrastructure and services – enablers of social inclusion of women
- Provision of incentives for local employment opportunities for women
- Enhanced support and incentives for female farmers
- Improving the access to loans for women for entrepreneurial activities;
- Empowering women in decision making
It will also enhance the monitoring of gender equality implementation using a methodology to measure the related expenditure at programme level. The ‘Social Conditionality’ –concept under the new CAP introduces serious financial consequences for the farmers who do not respect employment and social legislation in relation to their employees. This will lead to better working conditions in agriculture sector for all workers, including for women.
As part of the Commission’s Long Term Vision for EU Rural Areas, there will be a Flagship initiative called ‘Social resilience and Women in rural areas’.
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