Labour costs in agriculture stable in 2020

Thursday, 18 March 2021

By Charlie Reeve

Average weekly earnings for farm workers remained stable during 2020 with minimal growth overall. As at December 2020, average weekly earnings for the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector totalled £429, according to Office of National Statistics data. This was just a £1 increase on December 2019, an annual percentage change of just 0.2%.

In the construction industry, the sector with the most comparable pool of labour to agriculture, there was an year-on-year increase of 4.7% in December 2020. This brought the average weekly earnings in that industry to £687, widening the gap between the two sectors.

While weekly agricultural wages remain below those in the construction industry, they did remain stable throughout the year and did not suffer a notable drop, unlike many sectors.

The UK unemployment rate between October and December 2020 was estimated at 5.1%, according to Office of National Statistics data. This was up by 1.3% on the previous year, although without the introduction and extension of the government’s furlough scheme, this figure might have been much higher.

The use of seasonal labour in agriculture was reported to be difficult during 2020, with shortages of staff able to travel to the UK. This is likely to be an ongoing issue for the industry with many travel restrictions still currently in place. AHDB’s seasonal worker webpage was launched in order to support employers.

While average weekly earnings for the Agriculture sector may still be below other similar sectors, it’s worth remembering that some agricultural workers also receive other benefits, such as accommodation.

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