The Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce is asking the Unemployment Insurance Fund not to send farmers long-term unemployed people who are not interested in working on farms as this will only increase the administrative burden on farmers.
The chamber said the agricultural sector cannot ensure production volumes remain at the current level without external labor but people who are not interested in working in agriculture will not help them. The emergency situation has affected their ability to hire seasonal and foreign workers.
In a letter to the Rural Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, the chamber writes the peak season for seasonal workers needed for berry growing will begin in about a month, and finding solutions to labor problems is becoming more and more difficult. Many jobs, such as weeding and picking berries, are physically demanding and are not wanted by local people.
"Over the past month, there have been positive examples of people finding work in agriculture, but unfortunately the overall situation is still very worrying," the chamber said in a statement. The chamber has also called on employers to inform the unemployment fund of their labor needs, but the necessary employees have not been found.
Location is another factor. Many farms are in rural locations and offer accommodation but many unemployed people live in cities and do not want to relocate away from their families to work in the fields for the summer.
The chamber pointed out an addition problem is that approximately 30,000 long-term unemployed registered with the unemployment fund do not want to work and only contact farmers to maintain their status as active jobseekers.
"If the state policy is to direct people to work in the country through the unemployment fund, then the unemployment fund service must be reorganized and the pre-selection system for jobseekers currently offered as an additional service must be changed to a standard service for seasonal workers in the agricultural sector," he said.
The chamber noted farmers support various initiatives that direct people to work or volunteer in the countryside, but such measures cannot solve the problems of the agricultural workforce.
The government believes people who have been made redundant during the emergency situation should take jobs in agriculture instead of foreigners. Farmers say Estonians are not interested in these positions and do not have the necessary skills.
Editor: Helen Wright