​​​In 2016-17, 310,000 people were directly employed in production activities and associated support services across agriculture, forestry and fishing. The number of people working in these primary industries has declined over several decades, however, labour remains an essential input. Securing the future labour supply—with sufficient numbers of workers and appropriate skills—is important for the viability and competitiveness of the industry.

Recent insights

The Demand for farm workers: ABARES farm survey results 2018 report

Dufty N, Martin P, Zhao S – ABARES research report – October 2019

ABARES 2018 surveys provide an-depth profile of labour demand, recruitment difficulties and future challenges farmers face. The surveys covered broadacre, dairy and vegetable industries across all states, together with irrigated cotton and fruit and nut farms in the southern Murray Darling Basin. In aggregate these industries account for 74% of total Australian agriculture sector employment.


Snapshot of Australia’s Agricultural Workforce

Binks B, Stenekes N, Kruger H and Kancans R – ABARES Insights 2018

This snapshot provides key information and statistics on Australia’s agricultural workforce. We cover where workers live, what sub-industries and occupations they work in, and the mobility and educational attainment of the workforce.



Dairy work​​force survey 2015-16

Dufty N, Zhao S, Shafron W and Valle H ABARES research report – July 2018

ABARES survey results show the dairy industry’s labour force needs and challenges differ compared to other agriculture industries.




About my region: regional profiles

Each regional profile presents an overview of the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors, land use, production, employment and farm financial performance.




What difference does labour choice make to farm productivity and profitability in the Australian horticulture industry? A comparison between seasonal workers and working holiday makers

Zhao S, Binks B, Kruger H, Xia C & Stenekes N – ABARES research report – February 2018

On average seasonal workers are 20 per cent more productive than backpackers, but their non-wage labour costs are 2.3 times higher. Productivity benefits of hiring seasonal workers likely outweigh the higher non-wage labour costs and deliver profitability gains for farmers.


Agricultural Commodity Statistics 2017

December 2017

See Table 3.2 for number of people employed in agriculture, forestry and fisheries.



Labour force survey

Valle H, Millist N and Galeano D ABARES research report – 18 May 2017

Insights into vegetable, horticulture and cotton farmers’ use of labour, recent recruitment experiences and expected future labour requirements.



Diversity in Australia's agricultural, fishing and forestry industry workforce

20 Feb 2015

A diverse range of people of varying ages, genders and cultural backgrounds work in and contribute significantly to Australian agricultural, fisheries and forestry. These information sheets provide statistics and trends in employment participation and workforce demographics.



Measuring the efficiency of horticultural labour: A case study on seasonal workers and working holiday makers, Farm Policy Journal


Using payroll data from a horticulture farm in Queensland, this study found that seasonal workers were on average significantly more efficient than working holiday makers.

Last reviewed: 15 November 2019
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