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Background of the Study

Discuss about the Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change.

Agriculture forms an integral sector for every economy globally especially in Canada (Younger). Changing climate forecasts expects Canada to be warmer during the next 60 years. Climates change has positive as well as negative impacts on agriculture changing employment patterns immensely. Crops, livestock and sea foods yield from Canada contributes to a large proportion to the Canada’s economy. Once food-services along with other agricultural related industries are included it is expected to contribute to a sizable proportion.  Canada is one of the world’s largest agriculture producer and exporter. Research reflects that proportion of population devoted to agriculture has decreased at a dramatic rate over the 20th century (Howden). The scope of this paper is to analyze and understand relation of climate change to agriculture in Canada. Though Canada experiences mostly cold climates but due to recent climatic changes there has been increase in scope to produce a wide variety of crops and agricultural produce. Also exports of agricultural produce, education in the field have provided opportunities for people to join the workforce. Recent trends show that there has been a shift in employment pattern in the agricultural sector. The Government of Canada is also taking a lot of initiatives to attract and develop agricultural sector within the country to address the growing needs of its population and also increase exporting opportunities in some specialized yields (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.).  

Environment that surrounds the Earth nurtures life and help it prosper. There consists of layers of environment that protects life on Earth, with rapid industrialization post the Second World War significant amount of harmful substances has been released causing harm to this environment. Due to the environment we receive a variety of climates and seasons. Changes in environment has considerably impacted climate, which has been disrupted from its regular course. Climates as hot, winter and rainy helps in development and growth of various plants and other living beings on which human life depend (Bonan). Agriculture is done on basis of climates prevalent, disruptions of which has greatly altered productions made, hence altering employment in agriculture.

Climate change has several negative impacts that can significantly increase frequency of droughts and violent storms. These events significantly changes crop yields, decreasing them. Droughts in Canada in 2001 and floods in 2002 have reduced crop yields as much as by 50%. Droughts and floods also reduce pastures available to poultry and other livestock feed, thus forcing to find alternative food sources or reducing their herd size. Climate change has also led to developing of crop pests and diseases, where increased amount of CO2 have led to higher growth of weed (Wall).


Employees and labor in the agricultural sector are often exploited and paid less depending upon crop yield. With variability in climatic conditions such factors have further deteriorated. Canada’s agriculture includes a vast range of grains and oilseeds. Its major production includes wheat, oats, durum, barley, rye, flax seed, canola, rice, corn, soybean and so on. Other agricultural sectors include red meet including livestock of hogs, beef cattle, lamb and veal. Dairy, horticulture, poultry and eggs are also major agricultural produce from Canada. Its produce is dependent on the geography of the land (Nordås). Canada employs a mere 3% of the population in various forms of agriculture. It has received drought which has led to its farmers practice soil conservation and crop rotation as techniques to increase agricultural production.  

The purpose of this paper is to understand changes in climate that exerts impacts employment and labor market in Canada. Rise of globalized economies have changed consumption and production patterns that impacts economic, social and environmental conditions. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) a scientific body that studies climate from world over have evidence that depicts significant impacts from global warming. ILO estimates that 1.3 billion workers which constitutes 43.5 per cent of all labor force survive for less than US$2 per day (Molua). The figures can increase by a 100 million due to current financial crisis and global unemployment. Social inequalities persistent is still huge that have an impact on social, employment conditions especially of agricultural labor market for years to come. Thus, according to IPCC increase in global average air temperature can give rise to melting snow, raise sea levels raising violent storms and floods or droughts. Several endeavors are taken by various governments across countries by investing into a sustainable world. In order to understand the social linkages of climate change to labor market, the three pillars of sustainable development, environmental protection, social development and economic growth has to be understood. Without existence of sound legislative policies there would be negative impact on the environment as well as on employment and labor market (Smit).

Climate change has been addressed by many to have direct impact on economic and social cost. Social conditions that climate will impact is related to employment generation and sustainability to agricultural sector. Agriculture contributes to employment of approximately 1 billion people world over. Asia employs 70% and sub-African 20% of total world labor force in agriculture. From total workforce women represents 40% of the total (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.). Due to changes in climate rainfall patterns, droughts and floods will rise significantly that will degrade marginal lands used for agriculture and destroy crops. Precipitation in temperature also impacts growth and cultivation of certain cereals. Hence, employees in the agricultural sector might have to relocate to look for lands elsewhere. Agricultural sector is also impacted by high job insecurity. Increase in sea levels can also impact salinization of irrigation water, fresh water system and estuaries. Hence employees in the agricultural sector have to look at other ways of growing crops (Parry). Employees in the sector experience low rates of pay, growing poverty levels and poor working conditions. Hence climate change will have a high burden on already affected workers.       

  • Paper Aim1: To understand the overall impact of climate on agriculture
  • Paper Aim 2: To understand labor involvement in agricultural sector in Canada
  • Paper Aim 3: To understand various impacts related to agriculture on its workforce
  • Paper Aim 4: To analyze past and present trend in working conditions of labor in agriculture
  • Paper Aim 5: To analyze importance of International Labor Standards in climatic change

Paper Aims

Data collection and analysis is a basic for conducting any type of study. For developing an understanding for this study qualitative data of secondary nature was collected (Cline). Secondary data consists of those data that are not primary in nature and has been obtained from sources other than primary. Data has been primarily gathered from journals, books, articles, newspapers, internet, company magazines and so on. Secondary data for this study was not difficult to obtain as there has been plentiful research done in this area to understand the impact of climate change on agriculture. Data pertaining to employment and changes were also available on various journals (Time).

All data collected was cross checked and verified for reliability. Each data for the study was carefully selected such that it became relatively easy to reach the defined aims of the paper (Heaton).

The study conducted has certain limitations as it was purely made for theoretical purpose. This study can be used in theoretical context but cannot be reproduced to get practical results. The study is developed mostly from secondary sources and is purely qualitative in nature hence anyone adopting any part of this work needs to verify with references prior to doing so (Sapsford).  

Paper Aim1 Finding; Climatic change measures in the agricultural sector is being adopted from a long period of time. Climatic changes have impacted various aspects of agriculture as production of crops, livestock feeding and so on (Davies). Climate change has induced a number of workforces to relocate in search of greener and more fruitful pastures. In Canada there have been several institutes set up for learning and researching for innovative ways and means of doing agriculture. Employees working in this sector are investing and undertaking serious learning ways and means of protecting their soil and to do crop rotation such that they are able to produce maximum amount in minimum amount of time.

Paper Aim 2 Finding; Though an insignificant number of people from Canada works in the agricultural sector, government is providing a series of initiatives to attract a sizable amounts of the population into the field (Hertel). Agriculture for domestic consumption as well as for exports contributes a significant amount to the economy and GDP. Thus, with more agricultural innovative programs it will be easier to employ more workforce in the field. Government also wants to implement a minimum wage rate and a promising life for those in the sector.

Employees already existing in the sector are analyzing and devising ways and means to meet production targets and expectations (McLeman). With frequent drought and other natural turbulences in the country more and more labor force is shifting to other organized sector jobs. But growing needs in agricultural production is slowly putting strain of agricultural imports on the economy of the country. Food price inflation remaining low and other barriers to agriculture there is limited impetus to join the sector.

Paper Aim 3 Finding; Agriculture in Canada is gradually diminishing with more and more arid land and due to steady industrialization (Koetse). Majority of workforce and labor in the agricultural sector are adapting to recent changes in climate. Adaptation to farming is not a new concept though, but newer challenges are harsher than past ones. As changes in climate are taking place more rapidly than being a gradual process and covers large geographical areas adaptation helps overcome these potential factors. Employees in the sector has to devise alternate strategies as improved land management, altering of crops or crop rotation (Lobell). In order to boost employment in the sector their needs to be changes made in land reforms, capacity building and financial incentives to stay employed. There also needs to measures that help workers cope with loss of employment including insurance and medical benefits.

Paper Aim 4 Finding; Findings from several studies and journals reflect that workers in the agricultural sector are the worst victims of climate change. The trend seems to have worsen from the past. Land owners often victimize such employees to retain maximum part of the income. Absence of legislation and rules guiding minimum wage payment, security, health and safety of workers make them more vulnerable (Kurz). Loss of job over fears from climate change have induced suicides amongst many farmers in various different parts of the world. Unable to feed and maintain family often employees in this sector commit to high interest rate loans. To add to further woes of the farmers, there are off-seasons for each type of crop, which leads to no earning period and loss of income. This phase employees have often been seen to shift and look for employment elsewhere. Most employed in this sector suffers from high incidence of diseases as well due to physical hazards of the job. In absence of any health and safety standards they are often victimized. Most employees work on a rotation basis and perform the most tough job from sowing of seeds to cutting off crops. Yet the share the minimum amount of revenue generated from such produce.

Paper Aim 5 Finding; International Labor Standards is a legal body developed by International Labor Organization, comprising of governments, employers and workers. ILS aims to standardize work related practices, payment to workers in the sector and other factors in order to protect and preserve rights of workforce in this field. ILS can impose norms and regulations on government of various countries for application of such norms. It provides for uniform application of labor standards and other factors related to agricultural sector.

Agriculture is largest employer sector in the world which is affected by climate changes. Large number of workforce impose more responsibilities and liabilities on the sector to protect human health and environment. Working environment in the agricultural sector, implying pollution, health hazards, level of pollution impact workers in the sector. Air pollution not only affects agricultural yield but also human health causing many serious implications. Airborne pollutant have significant impact on working environment and health and ILS address issues such as these.

Agriculture is also related and impacted by use of various harmful and hazardous substances and chemicals, awareness regarding handling such chemicals has to be brought about in workers. ILS is working closely with United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and World Health Organization (WHO) to establish codes related to safety and to form International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPSC). The norms specifies and addresses handling of harmful chemicals as pesticides and other substances to reduce external environmental damage.      

ILS provides for prevention of major accidents at workplace to protect health of workers. It has been estimated that approximately 1.3 billion workers in agriculture world over gets injured from workplace accidents every year. Agricultural sector has also contributed to significant addition of greenhouse gases (GHG). In 2000 aloe 14% of GHG was generated from agriculture. Fertilizers being the largest single source generating such pollutant, there needs to be norms for disposal of such harmful substances. Soil realizes nitrous oxide during the process of de-nitrification, which further adds pollution in the processes, harnessing climate change and impacting health of workers. ILS aims protection at workplace by preventing larger impacts of such pollutants from affecting health of workers. ILS provides guidelines for safe collection, recycling and disposal of chemicals, especially obsolete ones that increases risk of workers and impose health norms on them as well as environment.

Program for workers at the ILs aims to provide social security as well to workers employed in the sector. Provisions from such norms can include guaranteed income for worker as well as his family such that he or she is able to maintain standards of living. This also helps worker find a new job in seasons of unemployment in agricultural sector for rotational crops. Thus, this enhances intra-generational equity and provides children of workers in this sector to abide by a minimum standard of living. This also allows to fight risks arising from poverty as diseases, alcohol, drug abuse and so on. Though Canada provides for various health and safety norms, but in some poorer regions where parents are unemployed, increased incidence of poverty can force children to leave school and enter employment.

Education and training has been identified as fundamental rights of human, especially in the agricultural sector there is a growing need to train and bring awareness regarding the various possibilities of climate change, technological change to adapt and mitigate measures arising out of GHG and reduce it. Such programs are meant to address social equity of workers who works in the sector. Workers of the sector has to adapt to cleaner production processes in order to promote sustainable practices.     

Migration in the sector is further hampering production in the agriculture. In future there might be instances of whole community migrating impacted by the changes in climate. When some areas flood, especially the low-lying areas there is an increased possibility that workers might migrate to a higher place to look for opportunities. When a flow of people migrate to other countries then social and economic marginalization cannot be managed adequately. Thus, migrating country needs to provide for resettlement policies with possible cost sharing strategies. good governance is another important area that can promote equality and conditions of workers employed in agricultural sector.  


Climate is expected to have an enormous impact on employment and labor market of agricultural sector. Adaptation and principles of mitigation needs to be in compliance with principles of sustainable development, including environment protection, economic growth and social development. International and domestic policy needs to help avoid the ill-effects from adaptation and mitigation on employment as well as labor markets.

With rising uncertainties in climatic conditions and in absence of regulations in labor market on social protection, working conditions and participation, unemployment and poverty can increase in this sector. Hence, introduction of global standards for labor market will help reduce disparities amongst population of some countries. Often it has been seen that most poor and vulnerable farmers are the worst hit by the effect of climatic change. An International Labor Standard needs to prevail that offer protection to shield workers from the impacts of climate change. Involvement of workers from agricultural sector is required to be able to introduce more effective policies that help in climate change. Governments of Canada and several countries across the world are making key political decisions regarding climate change by negotiating international laws. These steps will help reduce unemployment and ill-effects of climate change on employees in this field. Government of countries needs to adopt policy changes and good governance to promote, preserve and make agricultural sector prosper from the impending effects of climatic change.

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