Marking International Women’s Day 2017, IFA President Joe Healy has called for more supports and incentives to encourage women to take a central role in farming.
Encouraging more women to become actively involved in farming will improve the viability of both family farms and rural communities, he said.
“There are a number of practical, social and cultural barriers to women’s participation in agriculture that must be addressed.
“The role played by women is vital to agricultural productivity but is traditionally understated due to the predominance of male farm owners and the preference to transfer farmland to a son or other male relative.
“An increase in women’s participation in farming will require, among other things, a significant increase in ownership and control of the farm asset, whether individually or in joint ownership with a spouse.”
In Ireland, figures show that women account for a quarter of the agricultural workforce. The latest available CSO figures from 2010 show that the number of family farms owned by women in Ireland remains low at 12.4%.
In a recent submission towards the development of a new National Women’s Strategy 2017–2020, IFA called for a number of actions to support women in agriculture and to promote farming as a career option to women.
One action was to encourage the transfer of a family farm into joint ownership at the time of inter-generational transfer.
It also believes that support should be provided through the taxation system for the employment of farm labour to encourage more women to actively take over the running of the farm enterprise.
Other actions the IFA has proposed in the submission to support women in agriculture include:
- The IFA is advocating for affirmative action and training programmes to encourage women farmers, by providing training and mentoring to remove practical barriers to participation in farming by women.
- Low-cost childcare programmes and adequate social protection for women who work in agriculture are essential factors to contribute to the modern, sustainable development of rural areas.
- The IFA has called for the early introduction of a total contribution system for the purposes of calculating State Pension (Contributory). This is more equitable than the current average system, which disadvantages anyone who has stepped in and out of the system over their working life.
The IFA has said that women provide around two-thirds of all care hours, increasing to over 70% from the age of 50. A new statutory homecare scheme is needed to enable older people to stay within their homes and to adequately support carers, it believes.