Corsicans - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Subsistence-oriented production, although the mainstay of traditional Corsica, varied widely from region to region in the degree of dependence upon agriculture, pastoralism, and other types of primary production. Most areas practiced mixed agropastoralism, incorporating the ecosystems of different elevations for transhumance and to produce different crops; agriculture was clearly dominant in only two regions. The northeast was unusual because agriculture and livestock raising, especially pigs, were overshadowed by the importance of the chestnut forests; the nuts were ground into flour or used as fodder. The abundance of this resource allowed for one of the highest population densities of rural Europe in earlier times. Many of the coastal areas were abandoned as Permanent sites for residences and for most agriculture and were used primarily as winter pasture by transhumant shepherds from higher elevations. In some of the more mountainous Regions transhumant pastoralism was of paramount importance, agriculture being a more marginal and supplementary occupation. Fishing, combined with agriculture, was of basic importance only on the Cap Corse Peninsula. Today, traditional agriculture has been virtually abandoned and pastoralism has declined severely. Modern, large-scale agriculture is profitable only in the formerly abandoned lowland plains of the coastal areas.

The collapse of the traditional economy has created severe employment problems for Corsicans, leading to high levels of emigration. The new large-scale, coastal agriculture is dominated by non-Corsicans (Pieds Noirs owners and North African laborers), thus doing nothing to combat the problems of unemployment and emigration of Corsicans. The export orientation of modern agriculture and the decline of pastoralism have led to increased dependency on food imports.

Industrial Arts. The major industry on the island is Tourism, which is growing rapidly: tourism generates revenues double that of agriculture and triple that of building and public works, the next-largest sector. However, tourism is dominated by national and international capital, employment is seasonal and dominated by non-Corsicans (43 percent French and 29 percent foreign), and most of the goods and food required by the tourists must be imported; thus, few Corsicans benefit from the tourism boom that brings millions of visitors annually to the island. There is almost no other industry, except construction and public works; Corsica is almost completely dependent on imports.

Trade. Corsica exports mainly wine and small amounts of citrus fruits, wood, cork, and other products; the percentage of exports to imports in 1979 was only 22 percent. Symbolic of the economic dependence of the island on the central state is the fact that the single largest employer in Corsica is the state.

Division of Labor. The traditional division of labor was based on the intersecting principles of gender, social status, and age. The social status of the signori, the upper class, was marked by their withdrawal from manual labor; for the women of this strata, this implied seclusion within the home to a greater or lesser degree. Among the peasants, however, everyone worked. Under normal circumstances, with a balanced family grouping, the division of labor by gender was well defined and exclusive; only under exceptional circumstances would an individual undertake tasks assigned to the opposite sex. Women's responsibilities included domestic work; food preparation; care of the young, the elderly, and the ill; gardening; fetching water; supervising the ripening of the cheeses; harvesting or collecting olives, chestnuts, wild fruits, and wood. Men were responsible for most of the agricultural tasks, herding, woodcutting, hunting, and defense. The allocation of specialized occupations varied regionally. In the highly stratified villages of the south, for example, the shepherds comprised the lowest social class, segregated from the other villagers; in the more egalitarian villages of the northeast this hierarchy of occupations was generational within the family, with the landowning peasant father being in charge of agriculture and his sons herding until their inheritance of the land allowed them to take over the agricultural tasks. In the more pastoral regions, however, shepherding was a highstatus occupation.

Land Tenure. Although a small portion of the land in Corsica is considered state-owned, most is either privately owned or owned by the village communities. The ratio of private to communal lands varies greatly, some regions having primarily private landholdings and others primarily communal. The traditional pattern was typically to hold pasture lands in common and agricultural lands in private ownership.

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Oct 31, 2013 @ 9:09 am
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