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Automation causes job losses in Dutch horticulture

Employment has been decreasing in the Dutch agricultural and horticultural sector for years. In the coming years job reductions in this sector will continue. Between 2016 and 2020 a decrease of more than 7,000 full-time jobs is expected. Shrinkage is occurring quickly, especially among agricultural entrepreneurs. The number of people on unemployment benefits is increasing and there is heavy competition among job seekers, particularly in winter. Despite the job reductions, there are opportunities for certain professions in the sector as well, such as horticulturists and plant breeding specialists, according to a new UWV (Employment Insurance Agency) report on the agricultural sector.

The number of jobs for agricultural farmers and contributing family workers has fallen by nearly 40 percent since 2000. This is a loss of 51,000 full-time jobs. The UWV predicts a further 6 percent job decline for agricultural entrepreneurs until 2020. The employment of permanent workers will also continue to decline in the coming years. The number of full-time jobs for workers is expected to decline by 3 percent between 2016 and 2020. The declining employment is partly the result of mechanization and technological innovation. This enables the sector to produce more and more with less labor.

More flexible workers because of seasonal work
The use of flexible workers in agriculture and horticulture has increased by 90 percent since 2000. Nowadays nearly a fifth of employment in the agricultural sector consists of flexible workers. Half of the number of farms employ temporary employees. This often involves seasonal workers employed temporarily for harvesting work.

Due to the high degree of seasonal employment, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the agricultural and horticultural sector increases considerably during the winter. During this period there’s no work for many workers. UWV labor market researcher Freek Kalkhoven: "Unemployment repetition in the agricultural profession is high. In the spring and summer months the labor demand and the chance of work increases. Then it's relatively easily for people on unemployment benefits from the agricultural sector to get work again."

Opportunities for horticulturists and cultivation specialists
Within the sector UWV sees good opportunities for horticulturists and cultivation specialists. Recently, the number of vacancies for the former has greatly increased. More houses are being built where horticulturists are hired, and fewer individuals create and maintain the garden themselves. In spring there is even a shortage of horticulturists. This also applies to cultivation specialists, for example in the cultivation of flower bulbs. This creates opportunities in these professions for recent graduates and unemployed people.

The sector plan is available here (Dutch).
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