Forecasts on structural adjustment processes in agriculture based on financial, structural and socioeconomic key data may be reliable on an aggregated level. On an enterprise level, the consideration of only these aspects is not sufficient to explain structural change. The aim of this study was to investigate structural change in agriculture under a sociological point of view. Based on an oral and written survey with active and former farmers as well as with farm successors in the Obwalden canton, personal and social aspects affecting structural change were analysed. In a qualitative content analysis of the results of the oral interviews, possible causes for structural change-relevant decisions were examined. Among economic aspects, the presence of intrinsic (self fulfilment and pleasure at work) and social (social acceptance, tradition) values seems to be an important criterion for or against the take-over decision and/or the choice of an agricultural occupation. Premature farm abandonment frequently results from the combination of a high working load and low incomes. The results of the qualitative content analysis were confirmed in the evaluation of the written survey with descriptive statistics and a factor analysis. As a result of this work, it could be shown that personal and social aspects play a very important role for key events of structural change (occupation choice, take-over and decisions to give up farming).


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