Gender and Land Rights Database

United Kingdom

In 2005, the estimated total population was 60 261 thousand, of which 30 781 thousand were female and 29 480 thousand were male. The population density was 248 people per square kilometre (1). In 2004, the rural population accounted for 11 percent of the total (2). The English account for more than 80 percent of the population, the Scots make up nearly 10 percent and the Welsh and Northern Irish comprise most of the rest. The country is also home to diverse immigrant communities, mainly from its former colonies in Africa, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and the West Indies (3).
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2008 was £1 442.9 with an annual growth rate of 0.7 percent, down from 3.0 percent in 2007. The economy is increasingly services-based, although it maintains industrial capacity in high tech and other sectors. In 2008, services accounted for 76 percent of Gross Value Added (GVA), manufacturing for 13 percent, construction for 6 percent, other production industries – mining and quarrying and electricity, gas and water supply – for 4 percent and agriculture, hunting and fishing for 1 percent. GVA measures GDP by industry in terms of the value of an industry’s output minus the value of intermediate inputs used by that industry (4). From 1998–2008, agriculture’s contribution to GVA fell from 1.4 to 0.5 percent. Over the same period, agriculture’s share of total employment fell from 2.3 percent to 1.7 percent (5). Farming uses around 77 percent of the country’s land area and employs 531 000 people, including farmers and their spouses (6).
In 2008, the total area of land on agricultural holdings was 17.5 million hectares (6) and the average holding size was 54 ha. (5). Of the total, 35 percent of the farmland was devoted to crops and 60 percent was devoted to grassland and sole rough grazing, not including common rough grazing (6). Around half of the area suitable for crops is occupied by cereal crops. Horticultural crops, including vegetables, orchards, soft fruit and crops grown under glass, account for 1 percent of that area (6). As of 2003, 63 percent of all agricultural land was classified as less favoured area (LFA) (7). The four individual countries – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – are very different from one another, each being autonomous with regard to agriculture and rural development policy (7).
With a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.942 in 2006, the country ranked 21st out of 179 countries measured (8). In 2007–2008, 23 percent of all people fell below the threshold of contemporary median income. The median income was set by using the Households below Average Income (HBAI) method, which calculates the level of consumption of goods and services that people could attain, given the disposable income of the household in which they live. The threshold was set at 60 percent of the national median equivalized disposable income. Those living below the threshold included 21 percent of adult women, 21 percent of female pensioners, 50 percent of lone parents and 61 percent of people of Pakistani or Bangladeshi ethnic origin. The adult literacy rate in 1995–2005 was 99 percent for both sexes (10). Life expectancy at birth was estimated in 2006 at 81.6 years for women and 77.3 years for men (3).

In 2008, the employment rate among women was 65.8 percent, compared with 77.3 percent among men. The same year, women accounted for 27 percent of the total agricultural labour force, comprised of 173 000 people, and for 20 percent of full-time workers, 60 percent of part-time and 44 percent of seasonal and casual workers (6).

Each of the four countries has developed its own land legislation and land tenure has evolved accordingly. A little over two-thirds of the total number of holdings are owned, while the rest are rented. Tenant farmers, who attend about 30 percent of farmed land in the country, are an important part of British agriculture. Leaseholds are also a traditional means of entry for young farmers who do not inherit a farm (11).
In England and Wales, all land belongs to the Crown, while others hold an estate in land. Estate types were reduced substantially to freehold and leasehold by the Law of Property Act in 1925 (12). In Scotland, the system of land tenure is largely feudal in nature. Although the legal framework of feudal land ownership was abolished by the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. Act of 2000 [Scotland]  (13), the rural land ownership structure characterized by large estates, which is often defined as being feudal in nature, still exists (14). In Northern Ireland, the Landlord and Tenant Law Act of 1860 [Ireland], known as Deasy’s Act, and the Land Purchase Acts of the 1880’s eliminated the feudal relationship between landlord and tenant and converted the relationship to a contract-based landlord and leaseholder arrangement, giving tenants secure tenure for the first time in centuries.

There are no impediments to women’s ownership or inheritance of land or to their participation in agriculture. The number of female holders in 2007 was 53 320, which is 19 percent of the total (3).

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography