Agricultural jobs increasing – for now

Employment in the agricultural sector increased by nearly 8% during the first quarter of this year compared with the last quarter of 2012.

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According to employment statistics, recently released by Stats SA, agriculture showed the second-largest in job growth after the utilities industry. But the LWO Employers’ Organisation anticipated that figures would decrease in the second quarter due to job losses as a result of the 52% increase in the minimum wage of farm workers. Marius Rieger, manager of legal services for the LWO, said the organisation had been flooded with requests for means to avoid retrenchments since the publication of the new minimum wage. 

“We think the increase will affect the employment figures of the second quarter and probably thereafter since retrenchment or restructuring doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. According to Rieger, the LWO head office had assisted 70 farmers with retrenchment or restructuring of employees since the minimum wage announcement.

“It seems that future job losses are unavoidable, but it is critical for any business to minimise job losses. Our members in the farming sector are focused on staying economically viable in order to survive,” he said. Meanwhile, Stats SA reported that in the first quarter both the formal and the informal sectors saw decreases in employment of 25 000 and 13 000 people respectively. Employment increased in agriculture by 54 000 people and in private households by 29 000. Unemployment has not recovered from 2008 when it reached its highest level at 14 million people. Today the unemployment level is nearly half a million below the 2008 level.