The Spanish Government approved on April 7 the temporary hiring of tens of thousands of immigrants or jobless people during the peak food-harvesting season.
Announcing the measures, Minister Luis Planas said they would be in force until June 30 and were also intended to guarantee exports to other EU nations.
Spain is in urgent need of labour to harvest its crops, the Minister alleged, between 75,000 and 80,000 temporary workers. Initially that figure had been estimated at 150,000 people. It has been reduced because there are seasonal workers who were already in Spain for other harvests such as the strawberry harvest in Huelva.
The crops of many stone fruits such as cherries, nectarines, peaches or apricots are close by and so the urgency. The initiative is especially important for the food basket regions of Andalucía, Murcia, Extremadura, Aragón and Cataluña.
Border restrictions and lockdowns have forced many foreign workers to stay at home during the peak food-harvesting season in Spain, which has the second highest death toll in the world from the COVID-19 disease.
These are the main measures in terms of “flexibility in hiring people for agricultural tasks”:
- Unemployed people may combine receiving welfare benefits with a temporary job in the farm sector.
- Extension of the work permit to legal foreign workers residing in Spain whose permit expires on June 30.
- Young nationals (18-21 years old) of third countries, being legally in Spain but without a work permit, are also eligible.
The decree approved also includes “proximity” measures. For example, only workers living in the farm municipally or adjacent to it may be hired to avoid unnecessary travels.
The reactions of the sector and its organizations have generally been very positive although some objections have been raised, such as that “restrictions on worker mobility will significantly reduce the effectiveness of the new measures”, a national newspaper wrote.