Page 20 - Farm labour in the UK
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• Lack of affordable accommodation in rural locations. Some permanent workers were reported to
own their own properties but according to one employer, ‘it is still the exception rather than the rule’. Rural housing is reportedly expensive and rarely accessible to local workers. One respondent said that housing difficulties prevented them from employing people with families, which further limits the pool of labour from which they can recruit.
• The rural location of farm work might be off- putting to new entrants used to urban lifestyles or because it is far from an individual’s home. Rural locations also tend to have poor transport infrastructure which might deter potential workers who do not have their own personal transport.
“If we have got a sixteen or seventeen- year old who is really keen to work on a farm but they don’t drive and there is no public transport, that can be as much of a challenge as housing. Because you could get somebody quite local that doesn’t necessarily want to stay on the farm but can’t get there or can’t get home again” (Labour expert 3)
Even for those who are interested in a career in farming, parts of the country are believed to be seen as less attractive locations to move to than others.
Previous studies identified further local-level drivers of domestic labour shortages (Matthews 2000; Nye 2021).
➢ Poor community relations, between land owners and ‘other’ rural locals, especially young people.
➢ Fewer small farms around to act as a 'training ground' as compared to twenty or so years ago.
➢ Many agricultural students return to the family farm where possible.
➢ Bright and capable students are headhunted before leaving college/university by large companies.
➢ Many students move directly into contracting jobs.
➢ Those who are applying are not sufficiently skilled for the work.
“It is a dangerous place working on a farm anyway and they were saying that, even for the likes of modern apprenticeships and those coming out of university and college, they have got no practical skills. They know the theory or the land theory but they can’t even drive a tractor, they can’t drive a fork lift, they can’t feed cattle and they can’t do the basics” (Labour expert 3)
• Lack of general education/awareness about food production at primary and secondary school levels, as well as more generally across the population.
• A poor, antiquated public image of farming as a career. It is associated with low pay, long hours, poor
work-life balance, bad conditions, lack of progression, heavy physical labour, and unskilled work.
• Few apprenticeships occurring within the industry (see section 3.5.1).
• ‘Poaching’ by other farms (driven by better pay, more attractive ‘shiny’ machinery, more novelty of work) .
• Lack of promotion by the agricultural industry itself.
• Lack of promotion from key influencers such as careers advisers, teachers, or parental guardians,
often leading to bright students being discouraged from working in the industry.
• Associations with a poor health and safety record, including death. One interviewee compared the lack of health and safety enforcement on farms as ‘criminal’ in comparison to other industries.
• Associations with poor mental health and suicide.
• The focus on ‘new entrants’ into agriculture tends
to concentrate on individuals becoming principal 14

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