A labour market or forced labour?

Make benefits cheats work on farms, says MP George Eustice

Farms minister George Eustice, who’s family owns a farm, has said that benefits cheats should be sent to work on farms.   He told the NFU conference that this would cover any shortages in seasonal migrant labour following the abolition of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme.   Mr Eustice said we should be focusing on getting unemployed UK workers onto farms instead of foreign labour.

“Having worked in farming myself, I know that some people will say ‘you won’t get them (UK unemployed) to do this work, they don’t want to do it’,” he explained.     “But as a government, we shouldn’t really tolerate that attitude that says, ‘we’re going to pay people to stay on benefits because they don’t want to do certain types of farm work’.

“We need to get across and overcome this attitude where we say, ‘it’s OK to pay people benefits and accept that they are not going to take jobs that are on offer’.”    He added that the government was working on getting more local people to take jobs on farms, which would be “factored in” to the work the DWP was doing on allocating benefits.


Comment:  The item raises several issues:

  • Should people be forced to take any job they are offered?  Presumably so according to one of our MPs.
  • Does he not realise there are probably perfectly valid reasons why people do not accept any old job?
  • Does he not see any contradiction between a ‘free’ market society and forced labour?

Evidence suggests that there are various reasons why local workers have been less likely to carry out seasonal work.  These include:

  1. Better opportunities in other sectors of the economy;
  2. A demand for greater ‘flexibility’ from employers;
  3. The need for workers to consider home responsibilities.

As a society we need to use real evidence before we make policy; we need to create and operate a welfare system that meets the needs of users, enabling them to obtain support and good jobs; and, we need to create sustainable, well paid and secure employment for all.


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