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Farm workforce survey reveals the impact of agriculture's labour shortfall

4 April 2018

A national survey has revealed the extent of the challenges agriculture faces when it comes to attracting the people power needed to drive productivity.
The 2018 Farm Workforce Survey was carried out by the National Farmers' Federation (NFF). A key finding was the gravity of the sector's workforce shortage.

"Most farmers surveyed reported a significant shortfall of skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled workers during both peak and non-peak seasons, and substantial financial and productivity losses as a result of these shortfalls,"
NFF Workplace Relations & Legal Affairs Manager Ben Rogers said.

"The results also showed that the workforce needs of farmers can surge by as much as 500% during peak periods."

Almost 90% of the respondents’ said their workforce was made up of permanent Australian residents. A little over 10% of farm labour was reported to be provided by migrant workers, such as 'backpackers' and participants of the seasonal worker programs.

Mr Rogers said two thirds of farmers ranked labour concerns as amongst the top three challenges they expected to face in coming years.

"Most farmers reported the shortfall in labour supply, employment costs, and red tape were their most significant labour concerns.

"Perhaps in reflection of the difficulty in attracting suitable workers, almost 70 per cent of respondents reported paying above award wages," Mr Rogers said.

He said farm workforce problems were most often associated with horticulture but the survey demonstrated labour challenges were industry-wide.

“Dairy farmers; pig, beef and sheep producers; and grain growers all confirmed that a shortfall in labour was one of the primary concerns for the year ahead.”

Agriculture is a powerhouse of the Australian economy – contributing on average $60 billion to the nation’s bottom-line each year.

Agriculture is also a significant national employer.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data indicates that the sector created 217,000 full time and 88,000 part time jobs in 2017.

Mr Rogers said the NFF was supported by the Federal Agriculture & Water Resources Minister Hon David Littleproud MP, in its vision for the sector to achieve $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030.

“NFF's Workforce Survey highlights what needs to be done to provide farmers with the ‘people power’ necessary to drive increases in productivity and deliver on this 2030 vision.

“We will continue to analyse the results of this important survey and discuss the work that needs to be done to overcome the sector's workforce challenges.”

Media Enquiries: Laureta Wallace
P 0408 448 250
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