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Erasmus University Rotterdam study:

"Migrant laborers are paying the price for Dutch food security"

Migrant workers in Dutch agriculture are faced with poor, often abusive, labor conditions. That's in stark contrast to the sector's high economic productivity. That's according to researchers. They are from the Open Society European Policy Institute and the International Institute of Social Studies at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

The research on migrant agricultural laborers in the Netherlands forms part of a comparative study. It's on seasonal agricultural workers' position in Northern Europe. The countries included are Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden. The Dutch researchers are Karin Astrid Siegmann, Tyler Williams, and Julia Quaedvlieg.

They looked into what causes unfair labor practices in the Netherlands. Migrant workers from central and eastern Europe experience these in the Dutch agricultural sector. The researchers focused on the labor-intensive horticultural industry. They also proposed possible interventions to improve the situation.

The researchers interviewed interested parties involved. That included seasonal laborers, unions, labor inspectors, and welfare organizations. A small follow-up study was also carried out. It focused on the Covid-19 pandemic's impact on labor migrants in the agriculture, horticulture, and food sectors.

The study shows how current regulations and socio-economic structures and practices form the basis for migrant laborers' working conditions in Dutch agriculture. According to the researchers, the seasonal workers' labor and living conditions can be called 'regulated abuse'. That situation is made possible by the highly flexible Dutch labor market. Relationships within the food production chain are skewed too.

Indirect labor contracts are set up by, often, non-registered temporary job placement agencies. So, most migrant laborers work under poor working conditions. They also receive low wages and experience a high level of income and job insecurity. Seasonal workers' bargaining position is weak too. That's because they're highly dependent on employers. That's as a result of linking employment contracts to housing contracts and health insurance.

The researchers proposed several concrete steps. These can be used to enable these workers to transition from vulnerability to decent, dignified work. They want, among other things, this issue to receive more attention from the government and trade unions. They also think there should be more resources for better labour checks.

And permits for temporary employment agencies should be reintroduction. That's to guarantee workers' safety and security. Fair prices for food producers and living wages for workers are important too. There are initiatives aimed at making the food chain more sustainable. These should focus more on working conditions in their proposals.

You can find more information in the Are agri-food workers only exploited in Southern Europe? Case studies on migrant labour in Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden report.

Source: Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

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