The present study examines the position of women in agriculture in Switzerland. It is still the case that many women who work in the agricultural sector today come from a farming background. As a rule, however, their principal training was not in agriculture. Their main spheres of activity are housework, family and gardening, followed by helping on the farm. On average a farmer’s wife works 70 hours per week, although the range is very large. Four out of nine women are in gainful employment outside the farm. They often take up the occupation for which they originally trained or never in fact give it up. The income thus earned represents on average less than ten percent of the family’s total income. Most of the farmers’ wives who work outside the farm are happy with their situation. In cases where farmers have a second paid job they normally work more hours outside the farm than their wives and thus bring in more money.Around half of the farmers’ wives included in the study are confident about their personal prospects. They are more sceptical about the future of their farm. As far as concerns the future of farming as a whole, the majority of the farmers’ wives are not at all optimistic. The issues and trends which take priority vary from one generation to another and from one part of the country to another. Being a farmer’s wife in Switzerland today is a complex way of life.
To balance their nutrient cycles, Swiss farms export surplus farmyard manure to farms with free uptake capacities or to composting and anaerobic digestion facilities. Between 2015 and 2020 the volumes of organic manure and recycled fertilisers transported rose significantly, with a consequent increase in transport costs.
Employment in the agricultural sector is declining in many European countries, especially in livestock farming. Direct payments can counter this trend and lead to the employment of more – especially female – family members on the farm.
Despite the current challenges of e.g. the war in Ukraine and climate change, the Swiss food sector is relatively resilient. This is the conclusion reached by Agroscope’s report on behalf of the Swiss Federal Office for National Economic Supply.