According to official figures in Europe, there are at least 16.5 million people asking themselves this question. This was the number of people who provided services to more than 710 million tourists during 2019.
The podium of the most visited countries was occupied by France, Spain, and Italy with almost 90 million for the first, 83 million for the second, and 62 million for the third (2018 figures).
When can I go back to work? Where will I work?
It seems obvious that the trust of tourists to take a plane, or a train, or a car to go on vacation will not return overnight. Perhaps post-Covid tourism will not even resemble what we experienced before this pandemic. Perhaps we will opt for more rural tourism and not so much mass tourism?
Let us focus on the issue of what job opportunities are now available to the unemployed in the tourism sector? What industry would be able to absorb so many jobs?
For those of you who feel lazy to read on, here is the final conclusion: agriculture.
Through a quick analysis of the current situation we can rule out industries such as the automotive or construction industries because, although to a lesser extent than tourism, this crisis is also affecting them.
The pharmaceutical, banking, or technology industries can face this crisis with a better or worse scenario, but the people they usually employ have very specific profiles and they are industries that require little labor.
The industry best positioned to give work to those families who depended on tourism to survive, to those young people who are looking for an extra income to help out at home or pay for their studies, to that entrepreneur who has just opened his restaurant, to that nice waiter who used to get up early to serve you a hot cup of coffee before going to work or to that smiling cook who prepared a tortilla skewer to calm your hunger midday, is agriculture.
There are some impediments to agriculture being an engine of employment in this time. All of them are easy to solve in a short time if society and public administrations propose it.
At the social level we must get rid of that retrograde thought that agricultural work is for people who are not well prepared or who are not good at anything else. Agriculture has the ability to teach you the basics very quickly so that you can be useful from day one and at the same time spend your whole life learning better farming techniques.
In recent decades, agriculture has been socially perceived as an unattractive sector for the European workforce. But this has not always been the case and there are more and more examples that this is changing.
At the regulatory level, there is no need for barriers to imports from other countries. The best tool for protecting the European product is transparency. That the consumers can have sufficient information to make their purchasing decisions. Some of the information that the consumer should have the right to access is: knowing under what working conditions the people who have produced their food work, knowing how much of what they pay the producer, how many kilometres their food has traveled, how it has been grown or at what time it has been harvested. Forcing this information to be displayed is not intended to prohibit but to create a level playing field between European products and those from third countries, leaving the consumers to make their own decisions.
It is up to us to promote quality employment in Europe and, in the process, to improve the way in which we feed ourselves while respecting the planet we inhabit. This crisis is not solved by free money for some, but by decent work for all.
We could take the opportunity to turn this graph around and make Europe the epicenter of global agricultural enterprise.
I end with a phrase from Cicero that I will never tire of reading: “Agriculture is the profession of the wise, the most suitable to the simple and the most worthy occupation for every free man.”