With over 1 billion people employed in the sector, agriculture is the second greatest source of employment worldwide after services. Agriculture is the most important sector for female employment in many countries, and especially in Africa and Asia.
Agriculture accounted for 35 per cent of global employment in 2009. Over the 1999-2008 period the share of agricultural continued its declining trend. It remained high in Sub-Saharan Africa only diminishing from 62.4 per cent to 59.0 per cent, and South-East Asia and the Pacific, where it declined from 49.3 per cent to 44.3 per cent to 44.3 per cent while in Latin America, 21.5 per cent to 16.3 per cent, and it was the lowest in Developed Economies falling from 5.6 per cent to 3.7 per cent.
Agriculture is one of the three most hazardous sectors in the world (the other being mining and construction). In several countries the fatal accident rate in agriculture is double the average for all other industries. Out of some 335,000 fatal workplace accidents worldwide, about 170,000 occur among agricultural workers. Furthermore, hazardous work is one of the worst forms of child labour, with more than half (53 per cent) of the 215 million child labourers worldwide heavily involved.
The agriculture sector is the mainstay of many economies, ensuring food security, export earning and rural development. Yet an interplay of factors is causing sluggishness in agricultural production. Particularly in developing countries, there are major constraints that need urgent attention, including the largely unrecognized women’s role in agriculture, inadequate skills, poor labour standards, low wages, dangerous working conditions, inability to manage risk and cope with income or price shocks, unpaid family work, child labour, lack of voice and social dialogue.