Agricultural Modernization and Gender Relations

The objective of the session is to discuss new insights into the effect of agricultural modernization on gender relations and to explore directions and possible collaborations for future research. Three new studies will be presented. The studies shed light on the role of institutional drivers of gender inequality in the process of agricultural modernization through technological change and commercialization, in areas dominated by smallholder farming. The studies focus on three different countries in Asia and Africa, namely India, Indonesia, and Senegal.


Janneke Pieters and Esther Gehrke, Wageningen University, Netherlands

Kanika Mahajan, Asoka University, India

Gendering Technological Change: Evidence from Agricultural Mechanization
Technological change in production processes with gendered division of labor across tasks, such as agriculture, can have a differential impact on women's and men's labor. Using exogenous variation in the extent of loamy soil, which is more amenable to deep tillage than clayey soil and therefore more likely to see adoption of tractor driven equipment for primary tilling, we show that mechanization has led to significantly greater decline in women's than men's labor on Indian farms. Reduced demand for labor in weeding, a task that requires precision and is thus more often undertaken by women, explains our findings. The estimates suggest that increased mechanized tilling led to a more than 22\% fall in women's agricultural labor in India, with no accompanying increase in their non-farm sector employment, during 1999-2011. Our results highlight the gendered impact of technological change in contexts where there is sex-specific specialization of labor.


Anna Fabry, KU Leuven, Belgium

Decent work in global food value chains: Evidence from Senegal
The rapid growth and transformation of global food value chains has stimulated the development of rural labour markets and has important consequences for rural poverty reduction. While this transformation can be associated with substantial rural employment creation, there is still debate on the inclusiveness and quality of these jobs. We provide quantitative evidence on the inclusiveness of wage employment in the horticultural sector in Senegal and on the quality of this employment and disparities among vulnerable groups of workers. Using survey data from 525 workers, 392 hired workers in agro-industrial companies and 133 workers on small-scale farms, we assess the inclusiveness of employment towards female, young and migrant workers, and compare the quality of employment between these different groups of workers. The quality of employment is assessed through wages and a decent work index that captures multiple wage and non-wage dimensions of job quality. We use bivariate and multivariate analyses to examine quality of employment and a decomposition analysis to explain wage gaps. Results suggest that job quality is better in the agro-industry than on small-scale farms. We find that the agro-industry is inclusive towards migrant, female and young workers, but that disparities in job quality exist within and across companies. Results illustrate substantial gender wage gaps across companies, but not within companies, and a lower likelihood of having decent employment among migrant and young workers. Our results suggest that wage gaps can be explained by differences in job characteristics, and are not directly based on workers’ gender, age or migrant background.


Esther Gehrke, Wageningen University, Netherlands

Technical change and fertility: Evidence from the oil palm boom in Indonesia
We analyze the link between the oil palm expansion in Indonesia and fertility. During the time period 1996 to 2016, we find consistently negative effects of the oil palm expansion on fertility. We explain this finding with rising farm profits, that led to consumption growth, an expansion of the non-agricultural sector, increasing returns to education and to higher school enrolment. Together these findings suggest that agricultural productivity growth can play an important role in accelerating the fertility transition, as long as the economic benefits are large enough to translate into local economic development.