Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The economy of Provence is based on a combination of agriculture, industry, and tourism. The agricultural economy is highly diversified, mixing the cultivation of cash and subsistence crops with animal rearing. Sheep, goats, and cattle are raised in the Highlands and foothills of Provence. On the plateau of Valensole, which is cut by the Durance River, mixed grains are grown, Including corn, wheat, sorghum, barley, and oats. Viticulture takes up the greatest proportion of the arable land, and vine-yards cover almost all of the southern half of Provence, leaving a small area in the Rhône Valley and the river valley of the Durance for the cultivation of fruits and vegetables. Groves of fruit and olive trees as well as flowers are often found interspersed with vineyards. Half the agricultural output is exported outside the region to large urban centers within France and also abroad to Germany, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. The other half of the agricultural output is primarily sold in local markets and a small proportion is retained by the producers for home consumption. The number of people employed in agriculture has been declining since 1954.
Some small, older industries that were developed in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, such as building-materials fabrication, food processing, and textile manufacture, are scattered throughout the region. However, more recently developed industries tend to be concentrated around Avignon, Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, and Toulon. These industries include the agro-alimentary, steel, armaments, electronics, energy, and chemical industries. Much of the immigrant population constitutes the labor force in the industrial sector of the Provence economy. The economic recession of the 1980s, economic restructuring, and the transformation of technology have resulted in a reduction of employment in industry. Tourism is also a significant sector of the economy of Provence. In contrast to both agriculture and industry, the tourist economy and the service sector of the economy have grown, absorbing much of the labor force rendered redundant in industry and agriculture.
Trade. Periodic markets, supermarkets, and "hypermarkets" service the population of Provence. The small open-air markets in the villages of the hinterland and the tourist centers along the coast are outlets for the sale of local handicrafts, such as lace, perfume, sweets, pottery, and for local farm products.
Division of Labor. In the division of labor in rural Provence, men are primarily responsible for executing the tasks of farm production, while women are responsible for the domestic tasks. This division represents the conceptual ideal and is seldom met in practice. Women often perform farm work in the fields on the family holding. Available children and the elderly are also enlisted to aid in the fields. Most rural households survive on the basis of mixing farm work with wage work, and husbands, wives, sons, and daughters may be involved in nonfarm wage work. While women are often involved in farm work, performing a range of light and heavy tasks, married men seldom perform domestic tasks such as cooking and cleaning.
Land Tenure. Land is privately owned, rented, or sharecropped. A farmer may operate a holding that is partly sharecropped and partly owned. Sharecropping arrangements are often made with absentee owners who wish to maintain some agricultural land while not working it. The conditions of each sharecropping contract differ, but generally the owner receives one-third of the revenues generated on the sharecropped land. The sharecropper receives two-thirds of the revenues and provides the equipment and inputs, as well as labor. In rental arrangements, the tenant farmer pays a fixed rent to the owner of the land. The average size of the farms in this region is 11.5 hectares, which is half the national average. Sixty percent of the farming population operate holdings of less than 5 hectares. Because of the relatively small size of the holdings, most rural households combine some form of wage work with agricultural work.