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German government is investigating options for foreign seasonal workers

Corona crisis causes shortage of hands in German fruit and vegetable harvest

German growers are highly dependent on seasonal workers for the fruit and vegetable harvest, such as that of asparagus and strawberries, but also for planting cucumbers and lettuce. Most seasonal workers come from Eastern European countries such as Romania, Poland and Bulgaria. However, there may be a shortage of seasonal workers because transit countries such as Austria and Hungary have closed their borders. In addition, a 14-day quarantine may deter seasonal workers, which they must undergo when they return to their home country after the season.

Asparagus harvest in Huegelsheim, Baden, Germany

To accommodate growers in this situation, the German government is currently investigating the following measures:

Transit solutions for seasonal workers to Germany:
- Agreements that employment contracts are sufficient for border access.
- Special German permits accepted by the Austrian and Hungarian border police.
- The possibility for seasonal workers to travel directly to Germany by plane.

Temporary exemptions in German labor law:
- Extension of the maximum number of days that seasonal workers can work in Germany without having to pay in the German social security system (health, pension and unemployment insurance). Currently, this threshold is 70 days.

- Exceptions to short-term employment contracts and maximum daily / weekly working hours.

In addition, the German government wants to encourage people who already work in Germany with additional measures, for example by adjusting regulations to prevent seasonal workers from having to pay social security contributions.

Source: USDA

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