1.3 Systems of Labour Organization

The system of labour organization-regulates the relations between the people carrying out the work on the farm, particularly the method of dividing the work and the yield - i.e., the wages. There are considerable differences between the cases in which these relations exist among family members alone (family labour organization) and those cases in which the farmer's family employs hired labour (labour organization with hired hands). The working relations in collectives of various kinds fill in an intermediate position.

Family Labour Organization

At all times, members of a family have pooled their labour in order to cover their needs. This system of family labour organization has existed since time immemorial and is spread throughout the world. Each member of the family is willing and ready to do his best because he is aware that he only has to share the fruits of his work with the members of his own intimate family. The fluctuations in the family's labour capacity resulting from the family's life cycle influence the organization of the farm; bottlenecks are compensated for by overworking, changing the cropping intensity, or leasing out or renting additional land. Within the family, the method if dividing the work among the members and sexes is often influenced by custom.

This system of family labour organization can also be confronted with problems if the farm unit becomes too small and not all of the members are needed to carry out the work. As long as no alternatives for earning a living are available, the family usually remains together and splits the work and yields. This leads to rural underemployment and low living standards in the agricultural sector. As soon as alternative job opportunities are created, there is a transition to sideline activities and part-time farming.

Labour Organization with Hired Hands

Whereas in industrial countries there are only few hired agricultural labourers and these are mainly found on the large farms, there is a large number of wage labourers in the rural areas of the developing countries. This is partly the result of the low level of mechanization in agriculture in the developing countries. What is even more important, however, is the fact that after all the land has been settled, there is no more land available to the growing population. Since only a small number of non-agricultural jobs exist, the landless are forced to offer their labour to the landlords for a wage in order to receive part of the crop yield and, thus, establish a basis to subsist upon. This on-sides shift in the conditions on the labour market has resulted in the fact that many of the landless live in poor economic and social circumstances. It must be mentioned, however, that the labour relations and living conditions vary greatly. The following types of agricultural labourers are widely spread throughout the world.

Permanently hired labourers: These farm hands, who have a regular job, are usually found on somewhat larger farms that are in a position to finance a permanent worker. They are often paid on the basis of an annual wage. The working relationships are long standing, sometimes lifetime. These results in a close, patriarchal relationship that is not only limited to the obligations regarding work and pay, but rather includes a personal relationship and loyalty as well as an obligation on the side of the employer to protect and help his employees. Some of these develop into skilled labourers such as tractor drivers, maintenance men for pumps, etc., one a higher level of development has been reached.

Casual labourers usually find employment in agriculture only during the time of the labour peaks. During the rest of the time, they try to find work in road construction, building construction, or similar jobs. They are, in other words, not agricultural labourers in the real sense of the word, but rather offer their labour to anyone who can use it. They are in many cases unemployed for several months in a year. They are only able to earn a modest existence because of the relatively high piecework wages paid during the harvest time and because the women and children also work frequently. This group of hired labourers, which is numerically the largest, is the outcome of the rapid population growth without a simultaneous development of the job opportunities.

Agricultural labourers who own small farms : If through inheritance or property losses the farm becomes too small, a farmer has to look for an additional source of income in order to supply the needs of his family. In many cases this is only possible as a hired hand on a large farm. Because of the large number of marginal farms, this form is widely spread although it is hardly mentioned in statistics as these farmers are classified as either farmers or tenants.

Coloni: A special form of the above-mentioned type are the coloni, farm hands who are given a piece of land that they can cultivate themselves in way of payment for their services. This form is found in Latin America .

Migratory workers: The labour peaks during certain seasons, which are particularly prevalent in monoculture regions, are partly met with migratory workers from distant areas. In some cases, the same gang of workers appears annually at specific farms or villages. The emergence of the national states in Africa created problems for the traditional migratory worker routes since the borders can no longer be so easily crossed. Part of the migratory workers belong to ethnically or religious minorities.

Plantation workers: The employment situation of the plantation workers has several characteristics in common with that of industrial workers: rigidly organized work, work regulations, union organization. Despite this, the living conditions of this group are frequently poor: low payment, poor accommodations, monotonous work, a lack of opportunities for advancement. Because of this situation, plantation workers are likewise frequently members of minorities or aliens. In some regions, plantation workers are allowed to cultivate a subsistence plot.

Rural craftsmen: In some societies, work carried out by handicraftsmen is paid with a wage. In other cases, however, a reciprocal relationship has developed such as the jai jmani or sep relationship in South Asia . In these instances, the handicraftsmen carry out all of the necessary work that belongs to their occupation for a lump sum paid in kind by the farmers they have an agreement with. In this way, the handicraftsmen are protected against unemployment, and the farmers have their skills available at all times.

Bonded labour: Sometimes known as economic slavery, this form emerges as a result of economic obligations, specifically debts. In some cases, people enter this relationship voluntarily in order to obtain protection and a basis of existence. Usually these people enter a contract upon drawing credit in which they agree to work for the creditor until the sum is paid back. Low wages and high interest often result in these relationships turning out to be of along duration, sometimes lifelong or inheritable. Such contracts are indeed illegal, but in their situation there is little chance that the workers can do anything against it. A milder form is a contract under which a creditor can demand services from a debtor at any time. The creditor has, thus, labourers at his disposal without the obligation of employing them and paying them continually.

Collective Labour Organization

Workers labouring in the various forms of production cooperatives and collectives have both characteristics of family and hired labourers. They are expected to show self-serving interest and care, much as in the case of family labourers, while simultaneously having the chance to specialize as found on large farms. Regarding the competence to make decisions, working regulations, and pay, their position is closer to that of hired labourers. Contrary to the theoretical goals, the problem of creating motivation without pressure and material incentives has not been solved, and some of the advantages have been outweighed by the bureaucratic apparatus.