There are two types of adults in Banished, Laborers and Workers.

A Laborer is a general worker that can go out and gather basic resources from the land (wood, stone and iron). They are also responsible for carting around resources from certain locations to others though I am a bit less clear on this.

A Worker is someone who has been given a specific type of task to do like fish, mine, teach or farm. As long as the materials they need are available to do their work they will keep at their specified task. When there are not enough materials however they seem to revert into being just a laborer again. The easiest example I have seen of this is a farmer during the winter will go around and gather stone and wood like the other laborers.

Now another thing a laborer is supposed to do is move resources around, thus allowing your workers to keep on working when they need to. What is a good ratio of laborers to workers to try and keep my workers from wanting for resources? Or is the ratio more along the lines of laborers to resource production areas (buildings)? I am looking for a general field park number of people not to send off to a specific task.

I have seen it mentioned in other questions and answers that you need to have laborers to keep the materials moving around and I am wondering what is a good worker to laborer ratio? 1 to 10? 1 to 5? 1 to 20? I am unsure. I have seen a blacksmith not be able to make steel tools because I can not get the coal away from the mine that is maybe 12 blocks further away than where the iron comes from.

4 Answers 4


A ratio is not helpful because there are a lot of variables. Just like food, tools, and any other resource in the game, the real question is "How many people should I allocate to get the work done?".

Laborers pull work from the labor queue. The key to having enough laborers to work everything in the queue is managing that queue.

Scenario 1.

  1. allocate 4 builders and have 4 laborers.
  2. Command the gathering of resources from a large area.
  3. place two houses.

At this point, the labor queue has 3 things in it. Harvest resources, clear obstacles from build site, carry material to build site. Harvest resources was issued first, so the other two must wait. There are no build sites ready, so the builders act as laborers and go to the resource area. To fix this, use the priority tool on (the entire area of) the buildings. This causes the clear and deliver tasks to be done before the resource area task, and will cause the builders to build those houses sooner.

Scenario 2.

  1. Have a large city with farmers, miners, stoneworkers and very few laborers. Have enough of these workers that the resources they supply are usually at cap.
  2. Command the gathering of resources from a large distant area.
  3. Watch chaos happen.

When work is stopped for any reason, those assigned workers will pull tasks from the labor queue. In the first wave, farmers and miners will respond and make the journey to the resource area. During that first wave: your smith, tailor and woodcutter may need more material and so place actions at the end of the labor queue. Since those workers are out of material, they pull the top priority item from the labor queue and join the distant gathering. Now you have a tools, coats and firewood shortage.

Avoid this trap by not gathering large areas of resources at one time.

  • Oh Yeah, I ran into the second scenario when I cleared a large area for 'New Town' to be built in and it looked like my town had made it through. This exposes a potential issue though that you can not really avoid, when workers reach their cap they may run away to join the laborers (I have watched them do this and then pick up another job or the like with someone else becoming a blacksmith).
    – James
    Feb 25, 2014 at 18:42

First off, anyone that doesn't have something to do (not enough resources for their job or hit the cap) will do Laborer jobs anyway. That's why your farmers are effectively laborers in the winter. So if your blacksmith is unable to get to the coal, he will stop working and do a the Laborer job of hauling the coal. However, it's also useful to keep a sizable amount of your population (but this is VERY subjective- just do what works) to keep as laborers as your workers will be replaced by laborers if your workers die for any reason. Also, bear in mind that vendors will be dedicated to moving things into markets, so if you have a market with vendors the vendors will move resources into the markets.

  • Thanks for the response but this is mostly information I already had in the question except for the replacing of workers when they die. If you want to expand on it a bit I would appreciate it.
    – James
    Feb 25, 2014 at 18:35
  • The line "This is VERY subjective" indicates this question is unanswerable. I did the best I could, but really you need to experiment with the situation. If you have a larger village you may need more, in a smaller, less. As I said, keep in mind that vendors do a similar job in terms of hauling. Feb 25, 2014 at 18:44

I normally don't let laborers stay higher than 4. Good placement of markets with 1/2 vendors each is usually enough to get the resources required for households where it needs to be.

That mean you only need some laborers to move materials for building and such.

Example I was putting woodcutters next to markets assuming the logs would be imported by the market vendors but I found Markets tend to not stock up on many logs and thus wasn't providing enough. In this case a laborer (usually the woodcutter itself) would go get some logs from the far away stockpile.

Put woodcutters and stockpiles next to Foresters. The woodcutters always have logs nearby and The Market can then fetch the firewood which its happy to store heaps of.

TLDR Vendors carry more stuff and are way more efficient - Proper use of markets make it so you only need a small number of laborer's. Between 1 and 4

PS. I always maintain at least 1 laborer so that if my teacher dies I don't loose all my students.


My ratio fluctuates through the game. I tend not to worry about the ratio per se, and instead make sure the that worker-placement I need is covered. If I have a rash of deaths, I will sometimes convert fishers and gatherer and stone workers and miners back to laborers, just to keep the town lubricated but if I only have two laborers in a town of 80 for a while, that's no big deal. After a bit, some students will graduate and replenish the labor pool and then I'll start drawing from it again.

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