Labor Migration Out of Agriculture in Today’s World

Labor Migration Out of Agriculture in Today’s World

Jingbei Hu

Abstract: The world is witnessing a mass migration of labor forces from agriculture into non-agricultural activities. Agricultural labor forces dropped from 970 million to 870 million, and the agricultural employment share (AES) from 43% to 27% over 29 years between 1991 and 2020. Around the year 2000, the quantity of agricultural labor forces peaked and started to decrease, and AES fell to 40%. Assuming that AES was 80% around the year 1700 when modern labor migration out of agriculture began and 0% when it ends in the future, the reduction of AES to 40% indicates that humans finally achieved half of their mission of the migration as they entered the third millennium after 300 years of arduous effort. Our analysis demonstrates that the speed and spatial extent of the current migration are unprecedented. Over the past 29 years, the world’s AES fell by more than 15 percentage points, while the average speed was 4% per 30 years between 1700 and 2000. Thus, the current labor migration is almost four times faster than the average of the past 300 years. Furthermore, the recent migration is more extensive in spatial terms than in any other period in human history, as evidenced by data from country groups and individual countries worldwide.

Keywords: Worldwide labor migration out of agriculture, Transfer of agricultural labor into nonagriculture, Agricultural labor outmigration, Labor migration out of agriculture between 1991 and 2020, Agricultural Employment Share, Decrease in agricultural employment share


Jingbei Hu, Professor of economics Emeritus

Email: [email protected]; homepage:

Citation: Jingbei Hu, 2023, Labor Migration Out of Agriculture in Today’s World, translation of Section 1 and 2 of Chapter 1 of the Chinese book: Jingbei Hu, 2022, Economics of Labor Migration out of Agriculture, New York: World Chinese Publishing, pp. 1-14.