1.2 Labour Force on the Land

The development from an agricultural to an industrial society brought changes in qualitative and quantitative terms for the people working on the land. Urbanization and industrialization have been causing a reduction in the share of agricultural population already since the last century, while the absolute number of agricultural labour force increased until 194B. This means that the population increase has mainly been absorbed by the increasing non-agricultural sector, a process which led to an increase in the demand for food, gave possibilities of intensifying agriculture by biological-technical progress, and of increasing agricultural income.

Especially after 1950, the boom in industry and the increasing non-agricultural income caused an important outmigration so that agriculture had to further increase the labour productivity, mainly by capital input in the form of mechanization, in order to be able to cope with the situation.

The process of migration greatly varied. Often, it was more a migration from agriculture rather than from the rural region. Former agriculturists continued to reside in the village where they had social relations and a plot to build their house on, if they did not choose to continue operating a small part-time farm. It was easier to remain in the village in regions where industry was located right in the rural areas - which is quite common in Germany. If outmigration as is often the case - did not take place with the change of generation but in the course of a small farmer's life, the risk which this change involved quite often induced the peasant to continue farming. This allowed him to go back to the old way of life, if life in the industrial areas did not come up to his expectations. During this trial period, two important changes took place: the family usually did not invest in agriculture, with all the consequences this involved. Secondly, the situation led to an increased workload for the women and family members who had to manage the farm. Thus, while on the larger family farms, over the last two decades, farmers' wives and children ceased to be farm workers and reduced their workload, on the smaller farms, the situation was disadvantageous., especially for women.

Remarkable changes took place under sociological aspects. In the agrarian society, land tenure determined the individual's status and functions. Nowadays, the inherited status is of limited importance for the social structure, and the level of income is the main status-determining factor. But this is only loosely related to inheritance and the land tenure situation. While in the agrarian society status determined personal- relations, agriculture in today's industrial society has accepted contracts as the factors governing relations between members of the society. Modernization has waved the determination of husbandry by customs, i.e., the famous village opinion, and increased individual control over the production process. At the same time, this increased chances and risks, and was soon overcome by new dependencies on markets, integrators, etc.

All these changes have been painful experiences, and not everybody succeeded. In the long run, incomes have been increasing, especially for farmhands, but also the general income per worker in agriculture. But there is a great difference in income between regions, production systems, and between more or less successful farmers. Many gave up, and not a few at the cost of considerable economic and psychological hardships for the individual himself and for his family.