Agriculture and Youth Employment: The Missing Link
Agriculture and Youth Employment: The Missing LinkPosted: 02/06/2014 3:42 pm EST Updated: 02/06/2014 3:59 pm ESTPrint Article share 17 tweet 26 12 Email 6 Comment 1 Share on Google+More:Young Entrepreneurs Entrepreneurship South Korea Unemployment Agriculture Business NewsSuk Moo Lee is a sensation in his native Korea: He has combined farming and camping to invent 'farmping' on his blueberry farm and, in 2013, his innovation brought in USD 200,000 in profit.
Suk Moo swapped his polished shoes for work boots in 2010, moving from Korea's capital Seoul to rural Eumseong-gun to start his own business: "As a little boy, I dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. After examining the opportunities in various industries, I discovered that the agricultural sector had enormous potential for prosperity" says Suk Moo.
His move proved wise, particularly at the height of the global employment crisis where many young people are at a loss: In developed countries with few jobs available, they are qualified for trades that are unavailable or do not exist; and in developing countries, the absence of social protection forces many to venture into poor quality jobs where minimum labour standards are not met.
Governments are turning to further education and skills training as ways to help reverse this trend. Questions remain though -- where are the good quality jobs? Do enough of these jobs actually exist to service the needs of young people lining up outside employment centres? And is agriculture part of the answer?
The growing need for entrepreneurs in agriculture: Agriculture does not top many young people's "most wanted" wish list of careers. It represents the past and is often perceived as the antithesis of progress. But Suk Moo thinks differently. He thinks that global trends of urbanization create agricultural opportunities in rural areas: "we need to expand from cultivation and harvest to diversification of agriculture-based businesses. It is imperative to connect people in the rural and city areas" he says referring to his new product, "farmping".
Global trends also encourage agricultural jobs. From a demographic standpoint, the world population of 7 billion is expected to increase by a third and reach 9.3 billion in 2050. The implications are clear: more people will need more food and supply will have to increase substantially. As more and better farms are created, related industries in agri-business, agro-tourism, land management, mechanical and agricultural engineering will expand as well. Agricultural exports will help create jobs across the entire value chain, benefiting corporations, family farms, cooperatives and small and medium enterprises venturing into additional markets.
How governments can support agricultural entrepreneurs: Suk Moo admits it was not easy at first: "Since I am a relatively young entrepreneur and lacked relevant working experience in blueberry farming, it was difficult for me to build a solid infrastructure and establish a network for my business. The difficulty increased as I was not born in an agricultural town, and I had to learn and adopt farming techniques and technology from scratch. I prepared for six months before launching my business in 2011."
Korea is a rare example in Asia-Pacific. While agricultural degrees remain a minority in the education system, universities (including the top one, Seoul National University) offer Agricultural Economics and Rural Development programs. To partly re-orient the supply of young graduates, Government passed the 2009 "Act on Fostering and Supporting Agricultural and Fisheries Enterprises", which targets young people with an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to change, just like Suk Moo which it supported with low-interest loans for infrastructure, agri-business consulting services and farming skills training.
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