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From the editor: Has farming's employment plan got to move with the times?

The future of employment in the farming industry - what needs to change?


Ben   Briggs

Ben   Briggs

Immigration is an emotive subject and one which divides opinion across the social spectrum. Some see it as a good thing, providing a fresh influx of labour and productivity in to the country, while others see it as a negative which exerts additional strain on state bodies such as the NHS, with little tangible advantage elsewhere.

 

For large swathes of electorate it was at the core of the decision to leave the EU back in 2016, and it is the agricultural labour maket which has been one of the most adversely affected sectors in the intervening period.

 

G’s Fresh bosses articulated their concerns regarding access to sufficient UK labour at the Nottingham Farming Conference, claiming their overseas ventures were increasingly in their thoughts as they sought to maintain supplies to retail customers.

 

The labour dynamic across the wider economy, not just in farming, has become increasingly complex.

 

Unemployment stands at 4.5 per cent, which is the lowest rate since 1975. With UK net migration falling, it leaves the UK employer in unfamiliar territory, with large numbers of vacancies needing to be filled from a smaller pool of would-be workers.

 

However, the suggestion from some quarters that the gap created by foreign workers choosing to shun the weaker pound can be filled by home-grown labour is not as simple as it may seem.

 

Firstly, as the unemployment figures highlight, the labour market is already tightly squeezed.

 

Secondly as FG In Your Field writer Phil Latham says, the hours and conditions within agriculture are not always attractive to younger workers who have a multitude of options.

 

So where does the balance lie? Well, there is no doubt that prospective employees have to be aware farming will not always offer the creature comforts of a temperature-controlled office. Harder to take, as Mr Latham says, is that farming may have to become more innovative and flexible in the conditions it offers.

 

Jobseekers will always look to farming, but to ensure farming is not dredging from the bottom of the labour barrel then employers may have to adapt their approach to suit the times.

 

And finally, Great Britain has a tradition of being a great trading nation, shipping its good across the globe. Let us hope the Government sees sense and allows livestock to continue to be part of that dynamic

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