In recent years agriculture has lost its place as the main sector of employment and has been replaced by the services sector, which in 2006 constituted 42.0 per cent of world employment compared to 36.1 per cent for agriculture. As for the industry sector, it represented 21.9 per cent of total employment, which is almost unchanged from ten years ago. Although textbook theory suggests that economic development entails a structural transformation with a shift away from agriculture to the industry sector, this no longer seems to be reflected in reality. Instead of moving into high-productivity jobs in the industry sector, people are moving directly into the services sector, which consists of both high- and low-productivity jobs.
Therefore, it is unclear if the sectoral shift goes hand in hand with productivity increases and thereby a better utilization of the workforce. Agriculture is still the main sector of employment in the world’s poorest regions. Two-thirds of workers in sub-Saharan Africa and almost half of workers in South Asia and South-East Asia & the Pacific are in agriculture. (Box 4b on page 6 of KILM04)
However, the world has, for the first time ever, more people working in something other than gathering, raising, or providing food. The fact that they are going from farming to giving manicures and manicuring lawns and asking "do you want fries with that?" might give you reason for pause. But, many of the ILO "service" occupations are ones that we include in the Creative Class so it's not all doom and gloom. In fact, the worldwide stagnation of "industrial" employment is an equally interesting finding. Clearly, productivity increases have impacted industry in the same way as agriculture -- we are making more with less or at least making more with the same.
posted by Kevin Stolarick