Fewer jobs and more casual contracts for farm workers

New government analysis on agricultural labour show an increase in part time and flexible labour which Sustain believes weakens the sector.

Farm workers in a polytunnel. Photo credit: Pixabay

Farm workers in a polytunnel. Photo credit: Pixabay

The latest Farm Structure Survey from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs shows fewer farm labourers being employed in full time, salaried positions.

Vicki Hird, Farm Campaign Coordinator at Sustain, believes this information on agricultural labour shows a dangerously casualized labour force:

“The survey suggests a continued decline in non-family labour work force on UK farms and in England with about 9,000 fewer workers working a full year since 2013. Part time and flexible labour has long been a key part of the farm system but the increasing casualisation of farm work risks reducing quality of the work and isolation of farm workers.

Farm labour – both family and employed are an essential part of our food system and their vital role needs to be understood and valued properly. Currently too little of the money spent on food reaches workers and farmers and so we are asking that the Agriculture Bill helps address this through a stronger clause on unfair practices in the supply chain.

Given the ageing profile of farmers (in England 40% of all holders were over the typical retirement age of 65 years) we also need active support for succession planning to ensure dignity in retirement and encourage new entrants interested in creating sustainable resilient farm systems.”

You can read Sustain’s full briefings on the Agriculture Bill.

Food and Farming Policy


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Food and Farming Policy: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.

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