Irish unpaid farm work figures among highest in EU

Ireland has one of the highest proportional figures of unpaid farm work in the EU, according to new statistics by the European Commission.

According to the new ‘EU Farm Economics Overview’, which is based on 2015 and 2016 data, unpaid work by family members represents about 95% of all work on Irish farms.

Only Slovenia and Austria have similar figures, while at the other end of the scale, only 6% of farm work in Slovakia is unpaid.

Next door in the Czech Republic, the figure is also quite low, at 25%.

Unlike in Ireland and other western European countries, farms in Slovakia and the Czech Republic tend to be private companies, which is why unpaid labour is so uncommon there.

This type of farm labour is also prominent in Croatia and Romania, where 90% of work is unpaid.

The new figures underline the concerns over labour shortages in Ireland – and also feed into the concerns over farm succession and transfer, highlighting how important the family is in Irish farming.

There are particular concerns for the dairy sector, with the amount of cows being milked steadily rising – from just over one million to 1.4 million over the last seven years, according to Teagasc.

However, the number of workers in that sector will have to keep up with the milking figures, with Teagasc adding that around 6,000 workers will be needed before 2025.