Demand for Seasonal Wage Labour in Agriculture: What Does Family Farming Hide?


  • Aurélie Darpeix,

  • Céline Bignebat,

  • Philippe Perrier-Cornet

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    • Aurélie Darpeix is the contact author, and is currently working at the French Permanent Representation to the European Union, 14 Place de Louvain 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium. Email: The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official view of the French authorities. Céline Bignebat ( and Philippe Perrier-Cornet ( are both with INRA UMR 1110 MOISA, Montpellier Cedex 2, France. This research benefited from the funding of the Région Languedoc-Roussillon (France), INRA (National Institute for Agricultural Research) and French Ministry of Agriculture. Our thanks are due to the anonymous referees and the Editor for comments on an earlier draft.


This article draws on the agricultural household literature to understand the dynamics of wage labour on farms in a context of family farming. The recent evolution towards an increased use of seasonal wage labour motivates the original distinction of three types of labour: family labour, permanent-wage labour and seasonal-wage labour. Considering the two wage labour types and hiring cost for seasonal workers, our empirical results based on 2000 French data on fruit and vegetable farms suggest that the choice between hiring permanent or seasonal wage labour is not only determined by the seasonality of the activity. Indeed, the characteristics of the local labour market also affect the trade-off between permanent and seasonal wage labour. This result provides insights on the substitutability of the two labour types, especially when the local labour market is tight. Moreover, the substitution of seasonal-wage labour for permanent-wage labour can occur in the agricultural sector as a mean of increasing flexibility as well as reducing costs and commitments. Finally, family labour is found to substitute for wage labour and more specifically for seasonal-wage labour.