Women’s labour is an indispensable part of Australian agriculture. Research has found that when considering on- and off-farm work, domestic duties, and volunteering, the work of women in agriculture is valued at $23.6 billion. While self-employed family farming remains the dominant mode of work in agriculture, this practice can unfortunately expose women to a lack of financial security due to a lack of economic and legal support structures.
The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) has identified financial insecurity as a significant issue for farm businesswomen and has published the Financial Security of Farm Businesswomen discussion paper to facilitate pragmatic steps towards a more positive future. The paper identified four key issues including the prevalence of unpaid work in the agriculture sector; the limited opportunity for women in financial decision-making; government and other institutions’ misunderstanding of women’s roles in farming; and the lack of access to financial planning and family counselling. These factors make farm businesswomen disproportionately vulnerable to poverty in retirement, or after significant events such as bereavement, divorce, and natural disaster.
The paper recommends extensive and accurate data be collected to determine the issues, while support must be provided to farm businesswomen through mentoring and financial and legal advice. The policies of government and bodies such as insurance providers must be also reviewed to ensure they understand and are inclusive of the unique needs of farm businesswomen.
Following on from this paper, QFF’s Farm Businesswomen Working Group will work to identify and prioritise strategies that remedy the risks identified. Farm businesswomen are invited to consider the paper’s discussion questions, join the conversation and share their experiences with the Working Group by 30 April, 2021. In addition, the QFF-led Rural Jobs and Skills Alliance is working with UQ Skills to deliver a ‘for women, by women’ edition of their Farm Business Management Skill Set program which aims to celebrate and encourage women’s participation in agriculture by providing them with the skills and knowledge to manage farm business. Farm businesswomen can visit the QFF website for more information.