This paper examines the effect of the decoupling of farm direct payments upon the off-farm labour supply decisions of farmers in both Ireland and Italy, using panel data from the Farm Business Survey (REA) and FADN database covering the period from 2002 to 2009 to model these decisions. Drawing from the conceptual agricultural household model, the authors hypothesise that the decoupling of direct payments led to an increase in off-farm labour activity despite some competing factors. This hypothesis rests largely upon the argument that the effects of changes in relative wages have dominated other factors. At a micro level, the decoupling-induced decline in the farm wage relative to the non-farm wage ought to have provoked a greater incentive for off-farm labour supply. The main known competing argument is that decoupling introduced a new source of non-labour income i.e. a wealth effect. This may in turn have suppressed or eliminated the likelihood of increased off-farm labour supply for some farmers. For the purposes of comparative analysis, the Italian model utilises the data from the REA database instead of the FADN as the latter has a less than satisfactory coverage of labour issues. Both models are developed at a national level. The paper draws from the literature on female labour supply and uses a sample selection corrected ordinary least squares model to examine both the decisions of off-farm work participation and the decisions regarding the amount of time spent working off-farm. The preliminary results indicate that decoupling has not had a significant impact on off-farm labour supply in the case of Ireland but there appears to be a significantly negative relationship in the Italian case. It still remains the case in both countries that the wealth of the farmer is negatively correlated with the likelihood of off-farm employment.
Jason Loughrey, Thia Hennessy, Kevin Hanrahan and Trevor Donnellan are researchers in Rural Economy and Development Programme of Teagasc. Valentina Raimondi and Alessandro Olper are researchers in the Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods, University of Milano