Fruit picking job searches increase among UK nationals
Britons are now more likely than migrants to seek employment on UK fruit farms, new figures show.
Indeed data shows that UK nationals have overtaken overseas job seekers in their interest in such farm work for the first time in at least four years.
Analysis of search trends on the leading job board shows growing British interest in roles that UK farms and employment agencies have traditionally struggled to fill with domestic applicants.
Figures point to an exodus from Britain’s empty restaurants and bars to its farms, with former hotel workers among the most likely to seek fruit-picking roles.
Farm chiefs said a campaign to recruit British nationals had received a “fantastic response” as the sector grapples with weaker migrant labor flows and growing demand for British food.
The growing migrant labor gap
Almost all of the UK’s seasonal horticultural workforce is typically made up of EU nationals, with agencies recruiting directly from overseas. Migrants also represent a large part of the permanent roles in many sectors of the UK agricultural and food industries.
But the coronavirus drastically limits the number of migrant workers, triggering a door-to-door recruitment drive. Many potential migrants are unwilling or unable to relocate for seasonal positions due to the virus and travel restrictions, despite UK and EU efforts to facilitate their movement.
Official figures suggest that seasonal migrant agricultural labor is currently down by around two-thirds from usual levels. Shortages are a significant challenge for farms, as demand for fresh fruits and vegetables has skyrocketed during the crisis.
The industry has stepped up national recruitment, with ministers calling in millions of workers on leave and made redundant to fill temporary positions. The government has co-launched a “Pick for Britain” recruitment site alongside farm leaders.
Sign that the recruitment campaign could bear fruit
Indeed, the figures released on Tuesday mark a first sign that recruitment efforts could bear fruit, not only in attracting Britons, but also in stimulating the interest of migrants. Interest has skyrocketed as the campaign launched and the UK lockdown.
Levels of fruit picking role searches as a percentage of total UK job searches were 160 times higher in late April than in early March.
The share of all UK-based job seekers using Indeed and looking for a fruit picking position jumped 234% in April year-on-year. The share of all foreign users of the UK site who searched for similar roles also increased, albeit less sharply, to 71%.
Tom Bradshaw, vice chairman of the National Farmers’ Union, told Yahoo Finance UK he is working closely with the government to boost national recruitment. He said he expected a new announcement this week on the government’s recruitment drive.
“We have already seen a fantastic response from the public wanting to choose for Britain this summer. Farmers are incredibly proud to be producing food for the nation at this crucial time, but there are challenges and support from the British public. is incredibly appreciated, ”added Bradshaw.
There is, however, some skepticism in the sector towards the UK workforce. Employers often complain that British recruits fail to make it to new jobs or only last a few days working long, physically demanding, usually low-paid shifts.
Exodus from restaurants to the fields
Indeed, the data also shows strong interest from workers drawn from the UK hotel sector, one of the most hampered by the government’s lockdown to contain the virus.
Analysis of resume data shows previous jobs that saw the greatest increase in applications for fruit picking roles. The chef, chef, sous chef and bartender were the top four. Painters, electricians, carpenters and ground workers were also in the top 10.
“Food and hospitality jobs have been badly affected by the closures and our data suggests that some people who have worked in these industries – as well as in construction, which has almost shut down – are turning to the roles of the fruit picker as a lifeline. Said Jack Kennedy, British economist at Indeed.
He said research levels on the whole were “extraordinarily high”, adding: “The virus has shaken the job market.