Food, drink and tobacco sector
Women constitute 40 percent of the food and drink workforce and in certain sub-sectors such as fish, vegetable and fruit processing workers are predominantly women. While small and medium enterprises in the food and drink industry are critical for output and employment generation, both in developed and developing economies, large companies, which account for less than 10% of total enterprises continue to contribute significantly to job creation.
Overall, working conditions have gradually improved in the food and drink sector, however there are a number of challenges to overcome in order to fulfil decent work in this sector, including low labour productivity and low skills; limited social protection and other benefits; occupational, safety and health issues at the workplace; gaps in working conditions between female and male workers; and the need to strengthen social dialogue.
In the next decades the food and drink sector faces an unprecedented confluence of pressures such as changes in supply and demand, climate change, food price volatility and food security. These may also have a significant impact on current and future employment trends and on working conditions in the sector.
Employment in both tobacco manufacturing and cultivation continued to fall in the past decade. Nonetheless, the sector remains an economic activity in which millions of women and men earn their living. Tobacco is grown in more than 100 developing and transition countries. Nearly 1.2 million workers are currently employed in tobacco manufacturing worldwide. However, the largest share of employment remains in leaf production, particularly in developing countries.
Changes in demand, resulting from increased health awareness and policy action to reduce tobacco consumption, as well as the adoption of new technologies will continue driving developments in the labour market in this sector in the next decades. These trends call for actions aimed at developing socially and economically viable farm and off-farm employment alternatives particularly for tobacco growers and leaf production workers. In addition, the industry still needs to address important decent work deficits such as poor working conditions at the workplace, exposure to hazardous and dangerous work, long hours and low pay, as well as child labour.
Due to the complexity in global food production systems, The ILO takes a comprehensive and holistic approach to addressing decent work deficits in the Food, Drink and Tobacco industries. This involves:
- Interventions across all the food system from farm to fork
- Advisory services and technical cooperation to enable ILO constituents throughout the food value chain to conform with relevant ILO Conventions and Standards
- Research to expand the evidence base for policy making in the Food, Drink & Tobacco industries
- Promoting knowledge sharing platforms to disseminate best practices at all stages of the food chain.
- Support social dialogue among ILO constituents on food, drink and tobacco issues.
Joint ILO-UNICEF report
Number of children without critical social protection increasing globally
01 March 2023
Decent Work in Nature-based Solutions
Nature-based Solutions can generate 20 million new jobs, but ‘just transition’ policies are needed
08 December 2022
ILO Director-General to attend G20 Summit in Indonesia
10 November 2022
Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Sixth session Moscow, Russian Federation, 13–18 October 2014
Report of the sixth session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
Economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing (in relation to Articles 17 and 18 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control)
SCORE Training Introduction - Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises
The promotion of tobacco-free workplaces as part of the ILO Workplace, Health Promotion and Wellbeing Programme
Food, drink and tobacco industry driving rural employment and development (fact sheet)
The impact of global food chains on employment in the food and drink sector
Note on the proceedings of the Tripartite Meeting on the Future of Employment in the Tobacco Sector
Data and tools
Tobacco Sector - Employment Statistical Update
Employment figures in the Food and Drink Manufacturing Sector
Employment figures in the Tobacco Manufacturing Sector
SIMAPRO. Guía de Autoformación y Evaluación por Competencias
Value Chain Development for Decent Work: A Guide for Development Practitioners, Government and Private Sector Initiatives