Closing the seasonal agricultural workers scheme: a triple loss
- Publisher: University of Sussex, Sussex Centre for Migration Research
Despite temporary migration programmes (TMPs) being heralded as achieving a triple win – whereby the host state, the sending state and the migrants themselves all benefit – the UK government has now terminated all such programmes, including the long- standing Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS). At the same time, TMPs have been heavily criticised by both the academic and policy sectors, as they tie workers to employers in rigid ways and lack integration measures. This paper reviews the SAWS scheme, including the policy evolution of the programme and the reasons for the closure. We argue that the government is inflicting a multiple loss scenario, whereby permanent immigration may increase, labour market shortages will be rife, remittances and skills transfers will be lost, and irregular immigration and in turn exploitation of migrant worker rights may be exacerbated. Whilst the policy design of SAWS was far from perfect, we argue that a modified version, targeting agricultural students, should be retained, which could restore the triple-win scenario.