The Covid pandemic turned off the cheap labour tap. That has delivered a “come to Jesus” moment for employers of farm labour in Australia.
But people shortages are not a new thing in the bush. The underemployment dilemma has been building for a while. John Goldsmith, the former principal of Longerenong Agricultural College, said a decade ago: “It’s not a skills shortage, it’s a people shortage.”
The declining rural population and subsequent reliance on non-family employees has been bubbling away. Until now though, this void was somewhat filled by people who will put up with less than ideal pay and conditions.