Working conditions in agroecological, organic and conventional market gardening
To what extent do production systems differ in terms of working conditions? To what extent do agroecological production systems offer better working conditions than other systems?
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This study investigates whether ‘green jobs’ in agriculture could contribute to better working conditions.
We examine a sample of 41 conventional, organic and agroecological vegetable producers who provide fresh produce for markets exploring their working conditions and the employment conditions of their workers, in Wallonia (Belgium). Drawing on the sociological, economic and agricultural literature, we identify nine dimensions that determine working conditions: leeway and control level; income and social benefits; work (in)security; political experience at work; time at work; intrinsic benefits of work; work-related discomfort; occupational health; and competence. We also assess the employment contracts of workers and the way producers manage their workers.
Overall we identify four key issues. First, working conditions were not necessarily better for producers in systems that put more emphasis on ecological values. The socio-economic viability of three production systems, including agroecological market gardening on small areas of land, is insufficient. Second, workers in all systems, except in one agroecological system, experience poor employment conditions. Third, each group of producers has to make trade-offs between the ecological, societal and economic dimensions of their business. Finally, we note that socio-economic and political context, history, work orientation and socio-cultural heritage have more influence on producers’ working conditions than their degree of mechanization.