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Transition and agricultural labor

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  • Johan F. M. Swinnen
  • Liesbeth Dries
  • Karen Macours

Abstract

Reforms have strongly affected agricultural employment in transition countries but in remarkably different ways. We present a theoretical model and an empirical analysis to explain differences in labor adjustment during transition. We show that the differences are due to a combination of variations in initial conditions and differences in reform policies and effects. The removal of price distortions and subsidies caused wage and price adjustments during transition and a reduction in labor demand in agriculture. Surplus labor outflow from agriculture was further stimulated by the privatization of the farm assets as they improve incentives and remove constraints for optimal factor allocation and structural adjustment. The shift to individual farms, which was especially strong in labor-intensive production systems with low labor productivity in agriculture, has reduced the outflow of labor from agriculture by improving farm governance and labor efficiency, although this effect was mitigated by losses in scale economies due to disruptions and market imperfections in transition. In general, labor outflow was considerably lower on individual farms than on corporate farms, due to a combination of factors related to human capital, access to finance, and physical capital. In the last section of the article we present a general framework for understanding labor adjustments in transition countries. Specifically, we show that there are several patterns of labor transition. In one pattern, followed by, e.g., the Czech Republic and Hungary, there is initially a strong survival of the restructured large-scale corporate farms that have laid off many workers. In the second phase of transition, gradually the importance of individual farms increases. In other countries, such as Romania, the opposite has happened. In these countries there is an immediate strong shift to individual farms, while labor use increases on average in agriculture. After this initial phase, the shift to individual farms continues, albeit more slowly, and labor use in agriculture starts to decline. Finally, our analysis shows that in countries such as Russia and Ukraine much of the surplus labor is still employed by little-reformed former collective and state farms. Major adjustments await more progress in agricultural and general reforms. Copyright 2005 International Association of Agricultural Economics.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by International Association of Agricultural Economists in its journal Agricultural Economics.

Volume (Year): 32 (2005)
Issue (Month): 1 (01)
Pages: 15-34

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Handle: RePEc:bla:agecon:v:32:y:2005:i:1:p:15-34

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  1. Carter, Michael R, 1984. "Resource Allocation and Use under Collective Rights and Labour Management in Peruvian Coastal Agriculture," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 94(376), pages 826-46, December.
  2. Dries, Liesbeth & Swinnen, Johan F. M., 2002. "Institutional Reform and Labor Reallocation During Transition: Theory Evidence From Polish Agriculture," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 457-474, March.
  3. de Melo, Martha & Denizer, Cevdet & Gelb, Alan, 1996. "From plan to market : patterns of transition," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1564, The World Bank.
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  11. Macours, Karen & Swinnen, Johan F. M., 2000. "Causes of Output Decline in Economic Transition: The Case of Central and Eastern European Agriculture," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 172-206, March.
  12. Lin, Justin Yifu, 1988. "The Household Responsibility System in China's Agricultural Reform: A Theoretical and Empirical Study," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(3), pages S199-224, Supplemen.
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  15. Rawski, Thomas G. & Mead, Robert W., 1998. "On the trail of China's phantom farmers," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 767-781, May.
  16. Erik Mathijs & Johan F. M. Swinnen, 2001. "Production Organization And Efficiency During Transition: An Empirical Analysis Of East German Agriculture," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(1), pages 100-107, February.
  17. Macours, Karen & Swinnen, Johan F M, 2002. "Patterns of Agrarian Transition," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50(2), pages 365-94, January.
  18. Csaki, C. & Lerman, Z., 1997. "Land Reform in Ukraine: The First Five Years," World Bank - Discussion Papers 371, World Bank.
  19. Mathijs, Erik & Swinnen, Johan F M, 1998. "The Economics of Agricultural Decollectivization in East Central Europe and the Former Soviet Union," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(1), pages 1-26, October.
  20. Kislev, Yoav & Peterson, Willis L., 1991. "Economies Of Scale In Agriculture: A Reexamination Of The Evidence," Staff Papers 13652, University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics.
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