Subsistence and Commercial Activities. In the Highlands, subsistence was based on pastoralism and small-scale agriculture. In the lowlands, agriculture was more intensive and livestock of less importance. Sheep and goats provided milk, which was processed into cheese; chickens laid eggs; household gardens provided vegetables and fruits; vineyards yielded grapes, which were made into wine; olive trees were harvested to produce oil; and grain was sown for bread. Pigs were raised, wild game hunted, and, occasionally, lambs slaughtered for meat. The local economy provided all the elements of a well-balanced diet; unfortunately, until recently, most villagers were too poor to enjoy such a variety. Fishing has never been a major part of the Sardinian subsistence or economy. Donkeys provided transportation and animal power for the lower classes, horses for the well-to-do. Cows were sometimes raised for milk and dogs were kept for hunting. Today, the traditional subsistence economy has been replaced by a market economy. Agriculture has diminished because only a few crops are profitable in competition with imports from the European Community (EC) and elsewhere. Pastoralism remains an important sector in the modern Economy, although much of the milk is now sold to cooperatives that produce the distinctive pecorino sheep's cheese in Modern dairies for sale and export.
Until recently, the Sardinian economy had been oriented primarily to subsistence, commerce was restricted to the dominating elites, and industry was limited to household handicrafts. Today, the service sector, including government employment and small business, employs more Sardinians than any other. Household handicrafts have all but disappeared, although a small-crafts industry produces items for the tourist and export markets. Industrialization has not been very successful in Sardinia, despite massive inputs from the central government. Mining (which is in decline) and petrochemical processing are the two major industries. Tourism is an important and expanding part of the economy in coastal areas.
Trade. Sardinia imports most manufactured goods and exports primary products (wine, cheese, vegetables) from the agro-pastoral sector. Sardinia also exports labor in the form of unemployed workers migrating to the industrial centers in northern Italy or west-central Europe and imports money in the form of subsidies, aid, pensions and remittances from Migrant workers.
Division of Labor. The traditional division of labor was structured along gender lines. Men's roles were centered away from the home, while women's were centered in the home. Peasant men worked in the fields to grow the wheat while the women worked at home to transform it into bread. The shepherds who were away with the flocks most of the time were always male; the women worked closer to home, producing cheese, raising other domestic animals, and gardening. In pastoral communities, agricultural work was shared by both men and women, although some tasks were designated as male or female. Today, women are responsible for domestic tasks and child care. This division of labor is reflected symbolically in the community, where certain areas are designated as male territory (the bars, piazza, and pasture) and others as the female domain (the house and the neighborhood) . The household is seen as having both a male and a female head, both recognized decision makers, the men directing activities outside of the household and the women inside, with the women storing, processing, and marketing much of the total product of men's and women's work, and, as well, mediating between the adult men of the household. Major economic expenditures are decided jointly.
Land Tenure. Land may be held privately or communally. In the agricultural lowlands most land is privately owned, but most of the pastoral communities have maintained some of their property as communal grazing land to which all village members have rights. Privately owned land is often rented out to the landless or those with inadequate land of their own.