Page 4 - Farm labour in the UK
P. 4

1. The issue of worker and skills shortages in farming requires addressing urgently. This needs to be across all sectors and should include both regular and seasonal positions.
2. Numbers of farm workers have levelled out over the last ten years, and while mechanisation can assist with labour requirements, large numbers of workers will still be required across all sectors at least in the short term.
3. Changes in immigration policy are likely to impact many sectors in terms of their accessibility to farm labour. Horticulture, dairy, pigs, eggs, and poultry will be particularly affected.
4. Multiple drivers exist which affect the scarcity of permanent workers, such as perceptions of the industry, poor farm culture, traditional forms of succession, poor promotion of the industry, and the location of the work.
5. Multiple drivers also exist which affect the scarcity of seasonal workers, including poor on-farm conditions and treatment, the location of work, the pay structure, lack of relevant skills, and competition from other industries and countries.
6. The impact of labour shortages might include: a drop in production, businesses being forced to cease production, businesses relocating to countries outside of the UK, an increase in slavery and exploitation, the exacerbation of unemployment in the industry, an increase in mental health issues within the industry, and the need to employ more people from the domestic workforce.
7. It is extremely unlikely that the domestic workforce will be able to fulfil the entire workforce requirements of the agricultural industry, and so should only be regarded as part of the wider solution to the farm labour crisis.
8. Solutions to the farm labour crisis include: ensuring that the new seasonal worker pilot scheme is fit for purpose, making farms more attractive as places of work for all workers, mechanising more aspects of the work, and widening the pool of domestic labour by promoting the industry as an attractive place to work.
9. Potential new entrants to the industry from the domestic workforce might include young people
(from all backgrounds), career changers, service leavers, ex-offenders and people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
10. Various opportunities, strategies and barriers exist to facilitate, support or discourage i) these various sections of society from working in agriculture and ii) farmers from facilitating their entry into an agricultural career. Experts in the various fields, however, recognise that both the industry and the groups themselves offer great potential for matching suitable workers to employers.
11. The Pick for Britain campaign, while not entirely successful in 2020, was an interesting exercise from which much can be learned regarding increasing employment of the domestic workforce within the industry.
For research and policy
➢ The seasonal worker scheme must accommodate the needs of all sectors currently reliant upon migrant workers, including those requiring year round staff, so as not to discriminate between sectors.
➢ Definitions of, and value placed upon, the skills of farm workers need to be revisited by the Migration Advisory Committee to ensure that the farming industry is not disadvantaged by the new immigration policy.
➢ Research should be undertaken to establish the attitudinal baseline of prisoners, service leavers, young people, and potential career changers to identify current attitudes towards careers in agriculture. This should be mirrored with farmers (i.e. their attitudes to employing people from these groups).
➢ Use of online portals should be encouraged to facilitate the exchange of workers between businesses, such as the Association of Labour Provider’s (ALP) Extra Workers Needed Portal.
➢ Introduce new data collection strategies to identify, with more certainty, where labour

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