Page 11 - Farm labour in the UK
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Farm labour in the UK | Accessing the workforce the industry needs industry stakeholders alike, with many believing that
 it could be highly detrimental to the industry.
“If you restrict immigration along the lines that the government has done with the points based system, yes, you are pandering to a populist public but economically it is a disaster. You are creating a problem which shouldn’t be there and doesn’t need to be there. This is not an economic problem - this is not an economic solution. It is a political solution and that is where we are going to come unstuck” (Farming rep 1)
The COVID-19 pandemic served to further highlight the precarious nature of the UK’s reliance on migrant workers, as the sudden lack of access to labour affected several sectors of agriculture at varying levels. The government endeavoured to rally domestic workers to help with harvesting via the Pick for Britain campaign. However, although many thousands of domestic workers showed initial interest in the work, only a small proportion ended up being interviewed for the roles and even fewer actually working on farms. This is believed to be partly due to the fact that new ways were carved out to access labour. For example, migrants were given special compensation to be flown in to deal with the emergency, and there were relaxations on movement between countries at the points in the season when the workers were needed most. However, a lack of clarity and security around the issue remains. The future of migrant labour in the UK is unclear but the
With the overall figure that we have from [a recent] survey being that it’s around 11% that were UK resident labour market this year, we are hopeful that there will be a confirmed scheme based on the pilot, but there is clearly going to be a shortfall and it’s very clear in terms of government direction that they are expecting industry to look first to resident labour” (Labour expert 2)
government is keen to decrease the country’s reliance on migrant workers (Gov.UK 2020a). It is, therefore, necessary to consider what other solutions might exist in the more immediate future for filling positions in farming, as well as what might be done to encourage a new generation of entrants wanting to work on or with the land in the future. While steps towards catering to the labour requirements of farms in the UK are being made, many feel that they are too small and not rapid enough. There were suggestions among interviewees that such a lack of urgency might cause permanent structural damage to the industry, as many businesses might not recover from prolonged labour and skills shortages.
“Even if you act right now and you start to attract more people, there’s ultimately a pipeline which will take time to filter through and so there could be a period of time where there is still a very restricted supply of labour, particularly in terms of skilled labour” (Labour expert 2)

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