Azoreans - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Azore economy is basically one of household subsistence. Islanders engage in crop, dairy, and stock farming or fish for their livelihood; industrial workers (food processing, textiles) represent only 4 percent of the workforce. Service jobs (in sales, health, tourism) relate to the urban sector or to government employment (civil service and public works). Much of the total land area, primarily hill and upland terrain, is in pasturage. Limited arable acreage is planted with staple crops (wheat, maize, white potatoes, vegetables, and fodder), orchard trees, or vineyards on Terceira, Graciosa, São Miguel, and Pico. Dairy products (meat, milk, cheese) are exported in significant quantities.

Industrial Arts. Azulejos (glazed ornamental tiles), Moorish in origin and a former handicraft product, are manufactured locally. Cottage workshops produce needlepoint, embroidered linens, handwoven rugs, bedspreads, counterpanes, pillows, and decorative items of feathers, paper, and fish scales. Many of these creations are sold in local shops. Cachalot (whalebone) carving was important until the mid-twentieth century; one workshop remains on the island of Pico.

Trade. The supermarket ( supermercado ) has arrived in major population centers; a daily open market for homegrown produce is found in most villages, as is the miller. Wines are produced and distributed locally. Portugal is the Azores' major trading partner.

Division of Labor. Traditional sex roles still persist. Women care for children, run the household, and work in farming operations and cottage industries. Men farm, fish, and provide labor for associated commercial activities. They also dominate the urban service sector (roadworkers, bus and taxi drivers). In a society where male emigration remains the norm, it is not unusual for rural women to lead lives of hard agricultural labor (plowing, hauling loads, and harvesting).

Land Tenure. Nearly half of all acreage is in absentee ownership. Land has been fragmented over time into noncontiguous walled plots, as in curraletas used for viniculture. Sharecropping and absentee ownership remain fairly Common. Many small farms are privately owned or rented, but pasturage is frequently shared. On Corvo, pasture land above 350 meters is communal, grazed by herds in common ownership; below, a public/private ownership combination exists. Limited access to land has long been a major incentive for emigration.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: