Several European governments are calling on job seekers to fill the hundreds of thousands of farming and food industry jobs that are vacant because the Coronavirus-related borders restrictions are keeping foreign farmhands away.
French Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume on Tuesday called for an “army of the shadows” of anyone unemployed or who had been temporarily laid off to “go to the fields”.
“We need 200,000 people today, and the farmers will treat them very very well on the simple condition that they want to work hard,” Guillaume said on BFMTV television.
It added that filling the labour shortage would be “the act of a citizen, an act of civility”.
Christiane Lambert, President of the French FNSEA farmers’ union, said that foreigners who usually come to work during the harvest, “can no longer come because of the coronavirus”.
Many European countries have imposed border and travel restrictions to curb the spread of the novel Coronavirus disease in recent weeks.
Germany’s agriculture industry is missing up to 300,000 workers, a large farming organisation said, while pointing out that the pandemic has freed up labour in other sectors.
“Many people who are working in restaurants or retail cannot work. Others, such as students, are forced to stay home,” said the Maschinenring farm equipment cooperative.
Maschinenring has launched a job brokering platform online, with support from the Food and Agriculture Ministry.
In Austria, a similar platform for farm and food industry workers registered nearly job 7,000 applications in the four days since it went online, Vienna’s Agriculture Ministry reported on Tuesday.