Skip to navigation

Skip to main content

Rural Migration News

contact us

July 2010, Volume 16, Number 3

Italy, Spain: Migrants

Italy. Italy has about 1.7 million farms, but half are very small, under two hectares (five acres). About 200,000 Italian farms hire 1.1 million workers, including 100,000 year-round workers (20 percent are non-EU nationals) and 900,000 seasonal workers registered with the social security system; up to 300,000 seasonal workers may be unregistered. There are an estimated 700,000 Romanians in Italy, and many are employed in agriculture.

The Italian agricultural economics association INEA in 2008 estimated a total of 895,000 seasonal farm workers: 720,000 Italians, 116,000 non-EU foreigners, and 58,000 workers from Eastern European EU-member states such as Romania.

Italy sets an annual quota on admissions of non-EU foreigners: 80,000 to fill seasonal jobs lasting up to nine months in 2009, including 70,000 for agriculture and 10,000 for jobs in tourism. The number is supposed to be set November 30 for the following year, but is often set only in the spring of the year to which it applies.

Legal non-EU seasonal farm workers are from countries that range from nearby Albania and Tunisia to South Asian countries including Bangladesh and Sri Lanka; over 40 percent are employed in fruits and 30 percent in vegetables. Non-EU seasonal farm workers can also be in Italy as students or asylum seekers; half are in three southern regions (Apulia, Sicily and Calabria).

The normal farm workday is 6.5 hours, or 39 hours a week; overtime is to be paid for hours worked between 39 and 48 hours. Employers are supposed to pay payroll taxes of 35.3 percent of wages for workers compensation, social security, and unemployment benefits, and workers are to contribute 8.8 percent of wages. Italian farm employers must provide housing to non-EU seasonal foreign workers.

Beginning in 2008, farms with annual sales of less than E7,000 can hire workers and pay them with vouchers bought at the post office for E10 each. Workers receive the vouchers as their pay, and obtain E7.50 for each; the remaining E2.50 is used for social security and workers compensation.

Spain. Spain is the world's leading exporter of strawberries, producing most of its export berries between April and June in Huelva in the southeast. Most growers cover their fields with plastic sheets to increase heat and spur ripening, and most hire Romanian and Moroccan women to pick the berries.

The Spanish government reduced the number of foreign seasonal workers admitted to Huelva from 16,500 in 2009 to 4,500 in 2010. Many African men, with and without permits, reported difficulty finding jobs in 2010 because growers preferred to hire women. The minimum wage is E35 or $42.50 a day; most growers insist on a two-week probationary period during which pickers can be fired easily.

There are about 5.7 million foreigners among the 47 million residents of Spain. In 2009, more people left Spain than entered to settle, 102,000 compared to 60,300, largely because of rising Spanish unemployment.

Jean-Jacques Bozonnet, "African migrant workers find slim pickings in strawberry fields of southern Spain," Guardian Weekly, June 22, 2010. GEOPA-COPA Seminar. 2009. Applying the Principle of Equal Treatment for Migrant Workers in European Agriculture. October.

Subscribe via Email

Click here to subscribe to Rural Migration News via email.