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Decline in EU workers hits UK agriculture, Lords inquiry told

Decline in EU workers hits UK agriculture, Lords inquiry told

National Farmers Union labour survey highlights sharp decline in availability of seasonal EU workers following Brexit vote.

British agriculture has already been hit by a sharp decline in EU migrants willing to undertake seasonal work since the Brexit vote, a House of Lords inquiry has been told.

The evidence of “a dramatic change in the availability of EU labour” in the last six months comes as the government’s chief adviser on migration warned that post-Brexit curbs on low-skilled EU migration to Britain would only provide a “modest” boost to wages and employment for British workers.

The evidence from Professor Alan Manning, the home secretary-appointed chairman of the migration advisory committee, comes immediately after the prime minister’s speech indicating that she was willing to sacrifice membership of the European single market to curb EU migration, particularly low-skilled migration.

Written evidence submitted by the National Farmers Union shows that the Brexit vote has caused serious recruitment difficulties for British agriculture.

“The results of the first three quarters of the 2016 NFU Labour Provider Survey found that there was a dramatic change in labour availability within the space of nine months, clearly showing the deterioration in the ability to maintain EU labour in the horticulture sector,” said the NFU in its evidence to the House of Lords committee.

EU migrant workers sort potatoes on a Lincolnshire farm
EU migrant workers sort potatoes on a Lincolnshire farm. Photograph: Jason Bye/Alamy Stock Photo

The survey found that in the first three months of 2016 100% of labour providers reported being able to recruit the right number of seasonal workers. By the end of June this had fallen to 87%. By the end of September it had dropped to 40%, with 60% saying they were unable to meet the demand for labour in the sectors they were supplying. By the end of September nearly 85% of the seasonal labour force in British agriculture was from Romania or Bulgaria.

“We had great difficulty in recruiting sufficient numbers and we also suffered greatly from employees leaving after only two or three weeks of employment, which left us trying to recruit replacements at very short notice,” reported one labour provider quoted in the NFU survey.

“This is the first year since 2008 … that we have failed to fill the seasonal labour requirements of some of our growers due to a shortage of labour,” reported another.

“This has only revealed itself since the result of the referendum. The media in Europe is reporting the outcome of the referendum quite negatively, including some of the xenophobic attacks, and there is a feeling that workers will not be made welcome compared with other countries. This is affecting initial levels of interest.

“The value of the pound will inevitably have some effect as other countries start to look more financially attractive than they were before compared with the UK,” they said.

Romanian workers harvest the grape crop in an English vineyard in Sussex.
Romanian workers harvest the grape crop in an English vineyard in Sussex. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Manning also told peers that the devaluation of the pound by 10% since the Brexit vote was among a variety of factors making Britain a less attractive destination for labour migrants.

The fresh breakdown of the numbers of EU nationals working in the health and social care sectors supplied to the committee shows that there are 10,000 doctors from other EU countries working in England, making up almost 7% of the medical workforce. There are a further 21,000 nurses from other EU countries, with more than half working in London, the south-east and east of England.

The data snapshot from NHS employers also shows that there are 90,000 EU nationals working in social care, including 22,000 in London and 23,000 in the south-east.

More than 70% of EU nationals working in the NHS in England are from countries that joined the EU before 2004, with a third of them coming from Ireland. More than 70% of EU staff in the NHS are women.

(Source – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/18/decline-eu-workers-hitting-uk-agriculture-lords-inquiry-told)
Decline in EU workers hits UK agriculture, Lords inquiry told Reviewed by on . National Farmers Union labour survey highlights sharp decline in availability of seasonal EU workers following Brexit vote. British agriculture has already been National Farmers Union labour survey highlights sharp decline in availability of seasonal EU workers following Brexit vote. British agriculture has already been Rating: 0
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