Welcome to the WEdata Sector Blog Series where we review the supply and demand of labour for each of the region’s top sectors of employment. To read more blogs like this, visit www.workforcewindsoressex.com/sectors.



The agricultural sector employs 4,900 workers in Windsor-Essex, and its 1, 688 businesses represents 5% of all the businesses in the region, with Crop Production alone accounting for 4.3% (Census 2016).

Eighty percent (80%) of agricultural business are owner-operated with no employees, and another 7% are very small with 1-4 employees. In fact, 85% of businesses in this sector employ fewer than 50 people.  

Demographics:  The female to male gender ratio of workers in this sector is 2 : 3 in the main sub-sectors of Farms, Greenhouses, and Support activities, while the smaller sub-sectors of Hunting, fishing, trapping; and Aquaculture have greater gender disparity with few or no female workers. Gender disparity continues in the sector, with more males (71%) being self-employed than females (29%), and of the 75 unpaid family workers reported, 60 are female and 15 are male.  

While the ages of workers are quite evenly distributed across the entire agriculture sector, there are significant differences by sub-sector. For example, over 60% of workers in Greenhouses, nurseries, and floriculture there are under 44, while in the Farm sub-sector nearly 40% of the workforce is over 55. The agriculture sector has the 2nd highest percentage of workers over 65 years old (10.33%) across all sectors. According to the COPS data, the Farm sub-sector median retirement age is 71 years old, a later age than workers in most sectors.    

Work Activity and Income: The median income for full-year, full-time workers is 36.9K which is very close to the national median of $36.5K.  Median incomes for full-year, part-time workers are $14.5K, while part-year, full-time and part-time workers earned $11.8K.

Education and Income: About two-thirds of agricultural workers have high school (36%) or less than high school (30%) qualifications. The median incomes for workers with apprenticeship, high school, college, and university qualifications were similar, varying between $19K – $24K, while workers without high school had lower median incomes of under $15K.    

Retirement: National projected Sector Retirement rates to the year 2026 range from 2.2% in Fishing, Hunting, and Trapping to 4.9% in Forestry and logging. However, these sub-sectors represent a small number of workers in our region leading to single digit retirement numbers. On the other hand, other agriculture sub-sectors are larger employers and are projected to have approximately 175 retirements yearly until 2026. Occupational Retirement projections show that rates of retirement for managers will be higher at 3.1% than non-managers 2%. The 2016 Census shows the median retirement age for non-manager agricultural workers as 65, while agricultural managers’ median retirement age was 71.  

Education and Training: The Enrollment by Institution page shows how many students are enrolled in post-secondary programs at colleges and universities across Ontario. Organisations and businesses can search for the programs and institutions that they recruit and hire graduates from to see recent enrollment numbers for specific programs and institutions. Many employers in the agricultural industry and other sectors are concerned about the supply of skilled workers for their industry. Those businesses that want to attract the best and brightest talent are wise to be proactive and build relationships with education and training institutions and their instructors. Going even further to develop onsite opportunities for cooperative education and internship placements for students also gives employers an opportunity to test-drive potential employees. Everyone benefits. Local employers have stated through consultations that not enough is being done in schools to advertise the opportunities available in this sector. There seems to be more agricultural interests from smaller municipality schools in areas like Leamington and Kingsville, but more should be done in other areas, as well.

Automation: These projections indicate how much of a given occupation’s work activities could be automated. They reflect automation predictions that routine activities, such as predictable physical work and processing and collecting data, are more susceptible to automation, while those at low risk involve managing people and complex tasks employing expertise. The probability of automation for the Natural resources, Agriculture, and related production occupations range from a high of 95% for Landscaping and Grounds Maintenance labourers to a low of 0.8% for Silviculture and Forestry workers.

While automation may lead to some job losses and task restructuring, it is important to keep in mind that the Talented Mr. Robot report and others have concluded that in actuality less than 5% of occupations could be completely automated. The authors suggest that mitigating the potential negative effects will take collaboration between all sectors to increase understanding of the implications, identify local technological strengths and opportunities, and provide education and training to those whose jobs will be impacted. They also acknowledge that automation in sectors is likely to be slower than initial predictions for multiple reasons, including as prohibitive costs, some technological advances are not occurring as quickly as predicted, and people’s preference that humans rather than machines to perform certain tasks. Local employer consultations showed that automation will be more prominent in lower-skilled agricultural jobs, such as picking and packing.

In terms of local trends, the growth in both Greenhouses and the Marijuana growing sub-sectors has been strong and projected to increase. This has also been proven through consultations of local employers who have made claims such as, “Due to expansions, especially in cannabis, the industry will grow” and, “A lot of farms are being converted to cannabis, so new ones will pop up.” As for issues that local employers deal with regarding employment in agriculture, they seem to have the most difficulty in retaining general labour employees. This is often due to the geographical location of farms and transportation issues. It is also often due to the fact that employers are often only able to pay minimum wage to these types of workers.

Sources: Census 2016; The Talented Mr. Robot (2016).  

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