What is Seasonal Employment and How to Manage it ?

What is Seasonal Employment ?

The term seasonal employment refers to the practice of workers and professionals finding work during specific months of the year and being idle during the other months in which they do not have any concrete job.

To take examples, the most common form of seasonal employment happens in the agriculture sector since sowing and tilling the lands occur during the period covering the pre-monsoon and monsoon months, and the harvesting occurs at the end of the crop season.

Thus, it is common to find farmers and agricultural laborers work during such months and are idle during the other months.

Indeed, agriculture is the sector which made the term famous in the developing world as the nature of the work is such that it varies with the seasons.

How Governments Manage the Seasonal Employment

Apart from that, the informal sector in every country including the developed ones experiences seasonal employment since the jobs in the informal sector are such that it is not possible to gainfully employ workers throughout the year.

Thus, it is common for governments and other stakeholders to take the responsibility of aiding the farmers and the farmhands and the workers in these sectors by way of monetary and nonmonetary assistance so that they have something to live by during the times when they do not have work.

A classic example of this is the Indian Government that has enacted the MNREGA or the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act which enjoins whichever government is in power to provide work to the rural workforce during the offseason months.

In addition, several schemes provide work during the months in which sectors such as construction and manufacturing do not see any employment. The point to note here is that most governments worldwide step in when seasonal employment results in the workforce being without jobs.

Why is Seasonal Employment Hard to Solve?

What makes the problem of seasonal employment harder to resolve is that one, the structural nature of such sectors is such that employment throughout the year is economically not feasible, and two, the fact that workers in the unorganized and informal sector often operate outside the formal system of pension and social security and hence, cannot be tracked or provided with concrete assistance.

This is the reason why the Indian Government has been insisting on Aadhar Identification as a form of enumerating the informal and unorganized sector workforce so that they receive the intended benefits.

Of course, there are many critics of dole for the seasonally employed workers who point to the fact that such workers can find employment that is similar in nature as well as throughout the year.

In other words, they contend that workers of the basic skill variety can find employment that is non-specialized and routine in nature provided they try. It is common to find such criticism from the conservative side of the political divide who are anyway opposed to any form of assistance from the government to the workers.

Seasonal Employment and the Gig Economy

Having said that, it is not only the unskilled workers who have a deal with seasonal employment and the emergence of the gig economy or the practice of freelancers finding work during specified months of the year has been the recent manifestation of seasonal employment for the skilled workers and professionals as well.

Indeed, freelancing which has become quite common in recent years has witnessed the problem of seasonal employment among the white collar workers and professionals as well.

This means that what was hitherto a phenomenon that was affecting the lowest rung of the workforce have now become pervasive and prevalent at all levels.

Further, what makes seasonal employment that much harder for freelancers is that the government and the other stakeholders are yet to provide worker protections that are common in other sectors to the freelancers in the new gig economy.

This means that freelancers who anyway do not receive social security or healthcare benefits now have to contend with the fact that they are “on their own” even during the off seasons. We contend that along with bringing freelancers into the orbit of protections that are mandated by law, it would also be worthwhile for governments around the world to start regulating the gig economy.

Some Tips for Freelancers to Manage Seasonal Employment

If you are a freelancer or are wishing to become one, it is our advice that you spread your client base and select the portfolio of work in such a manner that you find work throughout the year.

For instance, you can register on multiple freelancer platforms and ensure that you get work throughout the year.

While some freelancers state that seasonal employment does not affect them since anyway the nature of work is such that they can pick and choose the type of work, the fact remains that in some areas of freelancing, seasonal employment is indeed true.

Lastly, whether you are a skilled professional or an unskilled worker who is in effect on your own, it is better if you can form a group of similar members so that some form of unionization happens and you have bargaining power.

Indeed, this is already happening in the United States and Europe wherein workers employed with firms such as Uber and Task Rabbit have begun to form something similar to a basic union so that they can negotiate with the interface between the government and the firms employing them.

To conclude, it is the responsibility of all stakeholders to ensure that workers are employed throughout the year to facilitate social good.


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