Australian Bureau of Statistics

Rate the ABS website
ABS Home > Statistics > By Catalogue Number
ABS @ Facebook ABS @ Twitter ABS RSS ABS Email notification service
7104.0.55.001 - Agriculture in Focus: Farming Families, Australia, 2006  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/08/2008  First Issue
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product

FARMERS IN FARMING FAMILIES

The majority of people who identified themselves as farmers or farm managers (175,100) in the 2006 Census of Population and Housing were members of farming families.

In this article, farmers in farming families (referred to in this article as farmers) refers to the reference person and/or spouse/partner in a family who reported their main occupation was a farmer or farm manager in the week prior to completing the ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing. It does not include any other members of the family who were farming (ABS 2003). This definition has been used to maintain consistency with Australian Social Trends 2003, Farming Families (cat. no. 4102.0).


FARMERS IN FARMING FAMILIES

In 2006, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland had the greatest number of farmers in farming families. This reflects these three states having the largest populations in Australia. The median age in all states ranged between 51 and 53 years of age, reflecting the median age for Australia of 52 years. The two exceptions were the Australian Capital Territory (58 years) and the Northern Territory (46 years).

1.5 NUMBER OF FARMERS IN FARMING FAMILIES (a) AND MEDIAN AGE BY STATE AND TERRITORY (b)
Farmers in farming families
Median age
No.
Years

New South Wales
40 836
53
Victoria
35 680
52
Queensland
27 750
52
South Australia
15 903
51
Western Australia
15 347
51
Tasmania
4 353
51
Northern Territory
575
46
Australian Capital Territory
138
58
Australia (c)
140 582
52

(a) Reference person and/or spouse reported their occupation as farmer/farm manager.
(b) Includes persons aged 15 years and over.
(c) Includes other territories.
Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing.


AGE
1.6 AGE PROFILE OF FARMERS IN FARMING FAMILIES
Graph; 1.6 Age profile in farming families

Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing.


AGEING FARMERS

Barclay, Foskey & Reeve (2007) reported a variety of factors that affect family succession and inheritance of the farm business and these may lead to farmers remaining on the farm for a longer period of time. These factors include; the impact of assets and income tests on eligibility for pensions, the impact of government taxes, the financial pressure caused by escalating costs, the persistent drought, and the need to preserve the viability of the family business.

The median age of farmers has increased marginally from 51 years of age in 2001 to 52 years of age in 2006. However, more importantly, the proportion of farmers older than 65 years of age increased to 18% in 2006 from 15% in 2001 and the proportion of farmers under 35 years of age decreased from 12% in 2001 to 10% in 2006.

The National Farmers' Federation 2008 Labour Shortage Action Plan has noted some factors that may contribute to the deterioration of regional growth and affect the development of regional populations. One of these factors is young people moving to city areas for lifestyle, studies or other reasons. This may mean there are fewer young people available to work on farms leading to farmers having to work for longer.


1.7 MEDIAN AGE OF FARMERS IN FARMING FAMILIES (a) BY STATE AND TERRITORY

Graph; 1.7 Median age of farmers by state and territory
(a) Includes persons aged 15 years and over.

Source: ABS 2001 and 2006 Censuses of Population and Housing.

In 2006, the median age for farmers had increased in most states and territories since 2001. The only exception was the Northern Territory where there was no change in the median age. Although the median age for farmers in farming families in the Northern Territory was 6 years less than the national median age (52 years), this is also reflected in the median age of the overall population in the Northern Territory (31 years) compared to the Australian median age (37 years).


NON-SCHOOL EDUCATION OF FARMERS IN FARMING FAMILIES

With the operation of family farm businesses becoming more complex and being seen as a job rather than a 'way of life', more farm operators and managers are seeing themselves less as farmers and more as managers with skills that have much in common with other business managers outside agriculture. This is in part a response to the promotion of a more managerial view of farming through industry, education and government organisations (Cary, Webb & Barr 2002).

1.8 HIGHEST LEVEL OF NON-SCHOOL QUALIFICATION (a)(b) FOR PERSONS WITH A NON-SCHOOL EDUCATION (c)
Age group (years)
15-19
20-29
30-39
40-49
50-59
60-69
70-79
80 and over
Level of non-school qualification
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Population
Certificate
83.00
40.62
36.85
40.34
39.71
44.49
48.98
47.86
Advanced Diploma/Diploma
9.83
14.73
16.59
17.67
19.12
20.02
19.90
20.26
Bachelor Degree or above
2.13
42.19
43.78
38.46
37.22
30.36
24.62
23.45

Farmers in farming families
Certificate
100.00
63.16
54.87
56.03
46.58
41.98
39.95
39.56
Advanced Diploma/Diploma
0.00
16.07
19.85
21.33
24.88
27.00
25.23
25.63
Bachelor Degree or above
0.00
18.87
22.90
19.33
24.08
25.87
29.28
25.50

(a) Persons without a non-school education and persons who did not state their education level were excluded prior to calculation of percentages.
(b) Persons who inadequately described their non-school education were included in the calculation of percentages. Totals for age groups may not equal 100%.
(c) Includes persons aged 15 years and over.
Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing.


In 2006, the proportion of farmers with a non-school education who held a Certificate Level qualification was higher than the whole population for age groups under 59 years. This trend reverses for age groups over 60 years.

There was a higher proportion of farmers with a non-school education with an Advanced Diploma or Diploma across all age groups except the 15-19 years age group. The whole population with a non-school education had a higher proportion of people with a Bachelor degree or above for all age groups under 69 years and a lower proportion for age groups over 70 years. Non-school qualification refers to educational attainments other than those of pre-primary, primary or secondary education and may be attained concurrently with school qualifications.

1.9 HIGHEST LEVEL OF NON-SCHOOL QUALIFICATION (a)(b) OF FARMERS IN FARMING FAMILIES (c) BY STATE AND TERRITORY

1.9 Highest level of non-school qualification of farmers in farming families by state and territory
(a) Persons without a non-school education and persons who did not state their education level were excluded prior to calculation of percentages.
(b) Persons who inadequately described their non-school education were included in the calculation of percentages.
(c) Includes persons aged 15 years and over.

Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing.

In all states and territories in 2006, the greatest proportion of farmers in farming families with a non-school qualification had a Certificate Level qualification. This proportion was over 50% in every state except Western Australia and Northern Territory. However, Western Australia had a higher proportion of farmers in farming families who had a qualification at the Diploma or Bachelor Degree level.

At the national level there was a slightly higher proportion of male farmers than female farmers who, in 2006, had a non-school qualification. However, this difference was not represented across all levels of non-school education. Almost twice as many men as women had a qualification at Certificate Level but a higher proportion of women had a qualification at the Postgraduate, Bachelor and Advanced Diploma or Diploma Levels. Over three-quarters of farmers with a Certificate held a Certificate Level III (a category which includes trade certificates).


HOURS WORKED

1.10 HOURS WORKED PER WEEK BY FARMERS IN FARMING FAMILIES AND POPULATION (a)(b)

Graph; 1.10 Hours worked per week by farmers in farming families and population
(a) Includes persons aged 15 years and over.
(a) Persons who did not state hours worked were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.

Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing.

Over half of farmers reported working more than 49 hours per week compared to 18% of the overall population. This may be due to farmers being self-employed and often living and working at the some location, the need to work longer hours due to the lack of skilled labour available for farmers (National Farmers' Federation 2008) and children leaving farming areas (National Farmers' Federation 2008, Alston 2004) and not being available to help on the family farm.

Another factor which may influence the number of hours worked by farmers is the increasing need to obtain off-farm employment to maintain family farm incomes (Productivity Commission 2005). Also, greater dependence on off-farm income has arisen from more women entering the workforce and working off-farm thereby increasing work hours for male and female farmers (Productivity Commission 2005).


WOMEN IN FARMING

In Australian Social Trends 2003, Farming Families (cat. no. 4102.0) the diverse role of women in farming was acknowledged. Cary, Webb and Barr (2002) noted that women in farm families are less likely to identify with the traditional role of a ‘farmer’s wife’ and are increasingly likely to identify as a joint farm manager or as having an occupational life separate from the farm business.

In 2006, over half (56%) of women who were the reference person or spouse/partner in a couple farming family reported being a farmer or farm manager as their main source of income. The remainder (44%) reported an occupation other than farming as their main source of income. Some of the main occupations reported by these women were Intermediate Clerical, Sales and Service Workers (22%) followed by 13% who reported being Education Professionals, 10% who reported being Labourers and Related Workers, Health Professionals (10%) and Advanced Clerical and Service Workers (10%). A smaller proportion reported their main occupation as Elementary Clerical, Sales and Service Workers (8%) and Business and Administration Associate Professionals (5%).

In 2006, the number of female farmers, who were the reference person or spouse/partner in a farming family, decreased to 45,300. However, this still accounted for one-third of all farmers in farming families which is the same proportion as in 2001.

Bookmark and Share. Opens in a new window

Commonwealth of Australia 2014

Unless otherwise noted, content on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia Licence together with any terms, conditions and exclusions as set out in the website Copyright notice. For permission to do anything beyond the scope of this licence and copyright terms contact us.