Analysis of the contribution of the CAP to European rural employment – past, present and future.

The maintenance and creation of employment is a central concern of economics, and currently a primary EU objective, as reflected in the Europe 2020 strategy ‘to create the conditions for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’, with targets to “raise the employment rate of the population aged 20–64 from the current 69% to at least 75%”. Such policy objectives are being pursued alongside those for competitiveness and environmental sustainability, and within a context of increased migration into Europe from many countries.

Yet the creation or maintenance of jobs is not one of the CAP’s original (and still operational) objectives, e.g. “to increase productivity, by promoting technical progress and ensuring the optimum use of the factors of production, in particular labour”. Alongside “pure” technical change such as higher-yielding varieties of crops and livestock, the greatest source of raised productivity in the agricultural (and food) sector over the last century has been the substitution of capital for labour. This process seems likely to continue, and, with few prospects of increased demand, implies fewer jobs in the EU agri-food sector. Therefore, more jobs and increased productivity appear to conflict, both within farming, and in sectors associated with it. Nevertheless, job creation, or at least job maintenance, is now – implicitly if not explicitly – an aim of the current CAP, adding to a long list which now includes food security “at reasonable prices”, market stabilization, income “fairness” (a poverty aim), environmental conservation, climatic change mitigation, and possibly energy security. The European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (COMAGRI) is drafting an own-initiative report “How Can the CAP Improve Job Creation in Rural Areas?” (Working document made available in December 2015).