Technological change in the agro-food sector in the Netherlands

Mapping the role and responses of CEE migrant workers
Plants in automated greenhouse

How do technological changes in the agro-food sector in the Netherlands affect labour conditions and agency of migrant farmworkers from CEE countries?

This is the research question at the centre of the project Technological change in the agro-food sector in the Netherlands: mapping the role and responses of Central and Eastern European migrant workers.

Migrant workers’ precarity is the flipside of the significant and growing economic role of the Dutch agro-food sector. Research on global commodity chains (GCC) has highlighted the instrumental role of migrant worker’s precarity for accumulation and export competitiveness.

The dependence on precarious migrant labour of in particular the most ‘advanced’ and competitive segments of global agriculture is illustrated by the labour force composition of the Dutch agro-food sector.

Mapping the changes resulting from technological transformation in the agro-food sector in the Netherlands for migrant workers from CEE countries

The project seeks answers to relevant questions such as:

  • What are relevant technological transformations that are ongoing in the Dutch agro-food sector?
  • How do these technological changes affect the labour conditions for CEE migrant farmworkers?
  • How do recruitment agencies and precarious labour contracts interact with the changes in technology and labour conditions?
  • How do CEE migrant workers respond to these changes, and to what extent are these responses effective in terms of achieving socially just labour conditions?
Automated greenhouse - close-up
Peter Ivosevic

Why is this research relevant?

This study will serve as a pilot and will provide valuable insights for the development of a broader comparative research proposal looking at technological change in other European countries and to investigate the interconnectedness of rural change in those and key migrant-sending countries.

The research findings benefit Trades Unions and other labour solidarity organizations, migrant worker organizations, NGOs, farmers' associations and relevant Dutch government bodies. The findings provide crucial information to the stakeholders about the dynamics, risks and opportunities in the Dutch agricultural labour market.


The project has produced a number of Working Papers and short articles in academic and practitioner publications.

  • Karin Astrid Siegmann participated in a webinar on Technology, Food & Migration - 18 July 2022. Part of the pre-programme of the 25th International Metropolis Conference in Berlin
  • EADI-ISS 2021 conference panel and roundtable discussion
  • 2018 Workshop on Technological Change in the Agro-food sector in the Netherlands: Mapping the Role and Responses of Central and Eastern European Migrant Workers’ at ISS, The Hague, the Netherlands

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