Seasonal work

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Asparagus harvest near Hockenheim ( Reilingen district ; May 2005)

In the economy, seasonal work is any work that occurs at a certain time within a year and is typical for seasonal businesses .


On the one hand, seasonal work can have weather-related causes, such as the asparagus harvest in agriculture or the high season in tourism . On the other hand, the purchasing behavior of consumers can also contribute to seasonal work, for example with fireworks or Christmas cookies . As a result, seasonal work is characterized by full employment or even overemployment during the season and underemployment out of season, which leads to a changing demand for labor .

As seasonal workers (including seasonal worker , seasonal workers or temporary workers ) is called working people , only for a temporary period, the season , an employment exercise.

From an economic perspective, seasonal employment occurs to a large extent by foreign and domestic seasonal workers , migrant workers and migrant workers . It often takes place under poor working conditions in terms of wages ( day laborers , minimum wages ), occupational health and safety or accommodation , with temporary residence permits or illegally as undeclared work .

In the countries of the European Union , seasonal workers and harvest workers are mostly migrants from Eastern Europe and Africa , and some from Asia or South America .



Even at the time of the German Empire there were forms of seasonal work. Every year numerous building tradesmen migrated from the Sauerland to the Ruhr area for a few months to work there, and they also returned regularly in the winter months. With the introduction of cheap workers' tariffs by the railroad , commuting increased considerably. Both forms of temporary migration made permanent emigration unnecessary and enabled the owners of small, unprofitable farms in particular to keep their property.


Seasonal workers from Eastern European countries work in Germany according to the specifications of placement agreements. These provide temporary access to the labor market for seasonal employment.Since the mid-1990s, Polish nationals made up well over 80 percent of all seasonal workers in Germany (a total of 228,807 people; 2006: 236,267; placement of Polish seasonal workers and showman's assistants totaled 299,657 in 2007). Around 90 percent of seasonal workers in 2006 worked in agriculture and forestry, around seven percent in the hotel and restaurant trade and around three percent as showman's assistants . In the course of the EU's eastward expansion and the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the European Union , more and more seasonal workers from Romania are coming to Germany (see free movement of workers ). Due to the steadily improving living and working conditions in Poland, many Poles prefer to stay in their home country.

Legal issues

The Dismissal Protection Act (KSchG) also takes seasonal work into account and, in Section 22 (1) KschG, stipulates that some regulations for dismissing seasonal workers due to this type of business do not apply to seasonal businesses and campaign businesses. This means that at discharge of seasonal workers the employer in relation to the employment agency no mass layoff display according to § 17 KschG must report and no working hours to apply for has ( § 19 para. 1 KschG). No Seasonal are Construction whose year-round employment by the SGB III ( § 102 is conveyed SGB III) ( Winter money ;. § 22 KschG 2). Once the season or campaign is over, the seasonal workers can be dismissed.

working conditions

According to the German Trade Union Federation (DGB), 12 or 13 hours of fieldwork per day are not uncommon, not even on weekends. Since very few seasonal workers are unionized, payment is often based on harvested yield instead of hours. This often results in a payment well below the minimum wage . Therefore, according to the DGB, the hours worked are not on the payroll. Often times, seasonal workers are promised low housing costs when recruiting in their home countries. When settling the bill, the deducted accommodation and meals costs are then higher than promised. According to the DGB, employees are sometimes blackmailed with immediate termination if they report the real situation to an occupational health and safety inspection by the German authorities. Seasonal workers who do not meet the minimum standards are often housed in a confined space.



The Federal Minister of Economics and Labor determines the economic sectors and the contingents in which foreign seasonal workers may be employed. There is a separate quota for harvest workers in agriculture. Since 1999 the Austrian government has increased the number of seasonal workers from 12,000 to 30,000. Admission as temporary / r employees / r via the issue of a work permit from the Employment Service and the granting of a residence permit by the residence authorities. Fixed-term employees are only permitted to stay temporarily, which ends when the fixed-term employment relationship is terminated. Even if fixed-term employment relationships are carried out over several years - with the necessary interruptions - temporary employees do not acquire the right to stay. The system of consolidation of residence does not apply to them, and family members are not permitted to take them with them or to join them. Access to social rights is restricted. B. no entitlement to unemployment benefits or emergency assistance . Many seasonal workers are illegally waiting for their next seasonal contract.


The 1934 seasonal statute was repealed in 1991 for people from outside the European Community (EC). After the entry into force of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons between Switzerland and the European Union on June 1, 2002, the seasonal statute also lost its validity for EU citizens.

Following the revision of the ANAG (Foreign Nationals Act of 1931) and the entry into force of the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals in 2005, the residence of foreigners in Switzerland has been newly regulated. The introduction of a new seasonal statute was rejected by Parliament in 2004.

Web links

Wiktionary: Seasonal workers  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Wolfgang Köllmann , Population History 1800–1870 , in: Wolfgang Zorn (Ed.), German Economic and Social History, Volume 2: The 19th and 20th Centuries, Stuttgart, 1976, pp. 20–27
  2. Hans-Ulrich Wehler, Sozialgeschichtliches Arbeitsbuch , Volume 2, 2008, pp. 38–41
  3. Employment agency : Implementation instructions for interstate employment agencies, seasonal workers and showmen's assistants ( Memento of the original dated December 2, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 440 kB) Status: 07/2008 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. BAMF, Migration Report 2007 ,
  5. ^ Eggert Winter (ed.), Gabler Lexikon Recht in der Wirtschaft , 1998, p. 826
  6. Hannes Schrader, Nils Klawitter, DER SPIEGEL: Seasonal workers in the asparagus and strawberry harvest: "Employers bet that people won't defend themselves" - DER SPIEGEL - Economy. Retrieved July 21, 2020 .
  7. Alfred Gusenbauer : "I feel ripped off" Interview in Falter 23/2006 of June 7, 2006
  8. Press release from the EDA integration office (PDF; 113 kB)
  9. Federal Law on Foreign Nationals
  10. of May 6, 2004, No new seasonal statute in the law on foreigners