Agricultural labour costs continue steady upward trend

Thursday, 12 December 2019

By Charlie Reeve

For the year to date, the average weekly earnings for farm workers has continued a steady upward trend. This was boosted by increases in the minimum and living wages earlier in the year. In September, average weekly earnings for the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector totalled £408, according to Office of National Statistics data.

For the first 9 months of 2019, average weekly earnings for agriculture increased by 3% year-on-year. During the same period, earning in the construction industry increased by 5% year-on-year.

The gap between average weekly earnings for the agricultural and construction industries widened to £259 during September 2019, with earnings for the construction industry being significantly higher at £667 per week.

Currently, the unemployment rate in the UK is just 3.8%. This means agriculture needs to be even more competitive to attract high quality workers. The combination of an aging labour force, shortage of seasonal labour, and high employment rates are all factors that are likely to lead to staffing issues for many farm businesses.

The average age of individuals working in the agricultural sector continues to be exceptionally high. In 2017, just 3% of farm holders were under the age of 35 according to DEFRA.

It is worth considering that despite average weekly earnings being lower for agriculture than construction, some agricultural workers have accommodation included as part of their employment or at a considerable reduction by their employer. This is a significant saving for employees compared to other industries and may therefore bring the average down overall.

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