Farm lobby slams Sydney Uni research showing less need for migrants

Australia’s agricultural lobby has slammed a report by Sydney University claiming there is less need for migrants to work on farms:

Sydney University researchers found demand for full-time and part-time work in agriculture had steadily declined since the early 2000s, with mechanisation a key factor.

The Journal of Australian Political Economy cites Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences data noting employment in the sector had declined from a 2001-02 peak of 440,000 to below 340,000 employees in the 2017-18 financial year…

The report noted that National Farmers’ Federation chief executive Tony Mahar had claimed “industry evidence showed farmers had great difficulties in getting adequate labour, to a much greater extent than the ABARES (2017-18) report suggested.”

Victorian Farmers Federation vice president Emma Germano said piecemeal data had been presented by a number of groups, which did not accurately reflect on-the-ground demand for workers. She said the horticulture sector, in particular, was struggling for reliable workers. “The problem with much of the research into labour shortages, both government and non-government, is that it hasn’t presented a comprehensive picture of the issue,” Ms Germano said.

The ABS’ employment data does confirm that employment in the agricultural industry has fallen heavily, thus supporting Sydney University’s claim:

The bigger issue here is that multiple reports have exposed systemic exploitation of migrant farm workers.

If the agricultural industry is struggling to find workers, perhaps it should lift wages and conditions. That’s how the labour “market” is supposed to work when their are so-called worker shortages.

Leith van Onselen
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