Seasonal employment patterns in the horticultural industry

Seasonal employment patterns in the horticultural …
01 Aug 2009

The study uses Linked-Employer-Employee Data (LEED) to examine short-term and seasonal employment patterns within the New Zealand horticulture industry. The study is a first attempt at using LEED to identify and measure the extent and distribution of seasonal jobs and workers within the New Zealand labour market. Monthly wage and salary information collected by LEED is used to describe the seasonal variation in employment across 10 horticulture sub-industries over a five-year period from October 1999 to September 2005.

The majority (82.1 percent) of employee jobs in the horticulture industry are short term and last 1–9 months. In the year ending September 2003 around one in three shortterm jobs were seasonal (part of a long-term seasonal employment relationship between a worker and a horticulture sub-industry) or held by an overseas worker temporarily in New Zealand. The remaining two-thirds of short-term jobs were held by casual workers living in New Zealand.

Over the five-year study period short-term employment in the horticulture industry peaked at between 17,500 and 20,000 jobs in December before falling by half to between 7,500 and 8,500 jobs in September. The apple and pear, berry fruit and citrus growing sub-industries had the largest swings in monthly short-term employment of the 10 sub-industries in the study. Seasonal jobs were more common in months with above average short-term employment. The ratio of overseas workers over casual workers increased steadily towards March before declining during the off-season.

Most workers in short-term horticulture jobs received income from jobs in other industries and government income support. Only about one-third were employed fullyear and half received income (from all LEED sources) for the entire year. Around onethird of workers that held jobs outside of the horticulture industry worked in the services to agriculture industry, which is likely to provide contracted labour to growers in the horticulture industry.

While LEED does not directly identify seasonal jobs or workers it does provide meaningful seasonal employment patterns in the horticulture industry. Further work is needed to better identify overseas workers, although it is likely that the identification of Recognised Seasonal Employment (RSE) workers will be aided by the introduction of separate tax rate and code on the 1 April 2009, which could be incorporated into LEED.

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