In response to the Irish Farmers Journal Agri Jobs survey, which was completed this month by agri-food companies, 59% of respondents have increased their headcount this year, which indicates both opportunities and employment growth within the sector.
Within the agri-food sector, there are “170,400 people employed, representing 7.1% of total employment in 2021” according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO). The numbers employed in the sector increased by nearly 7,400 people in 2021. This reflected growth within the industry in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The age profile of farmers in Ireland remains skewed, with only 7% of farmers under the age of 35 and the largest age group being the over 65s (33%, CSO).
This, along with other external factors, has resulted in labour shortages across all sectors of Ireland’s agri-food industry.
Gender balance among farm holders and in the sectors labour force improved, with 13.4% or 18,101 of farm holders female (Census of Agriculture 2020).This number is up from 15,099 in 2000.
There are common trends in companies from an overall increase in headcount, to challenges competing with other industries. While a strong 91% of survey respondents retained headcount in 2022, 78% of these are also experiencing difficulty in filling roles, suggesting a shortage of available employees. Some of the reasons for this included a shortage of qualified candidates, being unable to compete with other employers and having difficulty retaining employees.
With the new office normality since the COVID-19 pandemic (which generally includes some aspect of working from home), the majority of survey respondents indicated they work from home one to three days a week.
This systematic change means that new legislation is being brought forward to both regulate the area and help employees find their work-life balance.
The draft Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022 will give employees a legal right to request remote working.
The draft bill needs to go through the full legislative procedure before it becomes law. This will enable employees to have a legal right to request remote working, but it will be down to the employer to agree to the request. This bill was approved by Government on 9 November 2022 and is expected to be delivered by the end of the year.