‘Role of women on family farms not fully recognised across Europe’

The role of women in securing family farms through their off-farm work and on-farm efforts is not fully recognised, Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness said.

McGuinness was speaking following the release of a new EU report, which outlined that the economic and legal status of women is crucial in order to curb the declining population in rural areas.

In 2014 women were responsible for about 35% of the total working time in the agriculture sector, carrying out 53.8% of part-time work and 30.8% of full-time work, according to the report.

Yet, on average, just 30% of farms in the EU are managed by women, it said.

Much of the work on farms is carried out informally by spouses and other female family members and it’s often ‘invisible’ because they’re not listed as legal farm owners, McGuinness said.

This prevents access to rights associated with ownership, such as single payments, vine planting rights and income, and this places women farmers in a vulnerable position.

A growing movement in Ireland where women in agriculture are organising themselves into groups to support each other, is a welcome development, she added.

The EU report recognises the need to incentivise women so that they have the economic ability to commit their futures to rural Ireland, when that is where they want to be, she added.

Fellow MEPs recognise that women are very often the creative promoters of activities on or outside the farm and beyond the scope of agricultural production.

“Therefore, they impart genuine added value to such activities, creating much needed diversification in the rural economy to meet today’s needs,” McGuinness said.

The First Vice-President of the European Parliament believes a firm policy focus is needed in this area.

Promoting Women’s Farm Ownership

The report also recommends that the EU should promote women’s farm ownership or co-ownership, facilitate equitable access to land, ensure inheritance rights and facilitate access to credit.

Gaining professional status and social security registration means women would also gain access to entitlements such as sick leave and maternity leave, as well as greater financial independence, according to the report.

The report, which was recently approved by the Agriculture and Women’s Rights Committees of the European Parliament, identified that women’s access to the labour market in rural areas could be the key to sustaining populations in these areas.

Between 2005 and 2010, 2.4 million mostly small or family farms in the EU disappeared, figures show.

This severely impacted rural regions, in terms of rising unemployment and poverty as well as contributing to an ongoing depopulation of young people, the report revealed.