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Wine production and seasonal work in the EU

otkrivasht postWine production and seasonal work in the EU

At the end of this week, wine lovers can celebrate both the Bulgarian holiday "Trifon Zarezan" and Valentine's Day.

This is a good occasion to pay attention to the top wine producers in the European Union. In order to get to the phase of producing wine, first workers are needed to harvest the grapes and create the final product. Often these are seasonal workers who come from another country. From the perspective of labour mobility, we will present you brief information about the seasonal work in the top 6 wine producers in Europe - Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Germany and Hungary.

The Covid-19 crisis posed a number of serious challenges to seasonal work. For this reason, it is necessary for workers to work legally with a labour contract and to know their labour rights in the country in which they work or want to work.

  1.  Italy

According to Eurostat data from November 2020, Italy is the largest wine producer in Europe with a share of 35% in the EU in 2019.

Seasonal employment in the sector in Italy was drastically affected by the Covid-19 crisis there and the restrictions imposed. The emergency and the subsequent lockdown affected the number of seasonal workers because the quarantine period had to be complied with or because the workers decided to return to their country of origin and after that because they could not or did not want to go back.

There is no statutory minimum wage in Italy. However, workers may be included in a category which has a collective labour agreement which establishes this. The average net annual salary is EUR 21,617.56 (2019). It is mandatory to conclude a labour contract, which regulates working hours, place of work, basic salary, term of the contract for fixed-term contracts and obligations.

                You can see the full article on living and working conditions in Italy on the European Job Mobility Portal. On the website of EURES Bulgaria you can see information about working in Italy in Bulgarian language here.

  1.  Spain

Spain is the second largest wine producer with a relative share of 27% in the EU.

The agricultural sector in Spain has the strongest presence in some regions of Andalusia, Murcia, Valencia and Extremadura.

Temporary workers are usually employed during short-term or short-term employment contracts. In Spain, there is a statutory minimum wage of 1,108 euros gross per month. It is illegal to hire workers with salary below the minimum wage. The employer must provide the employee with a payroll, which clearly states information about the company and the employee, the pay and the support provided (including workers' social security contributions and income tax). The employer is responsible for paying the contributions and therefore deducts the statutory amount of income tax and social security contributions.

                You can see the full article on living and working conditions in Spain on the European Job Mobility Portal. On the website of EURES Bulgaria you can see information about working in Spain in Bulgarian here.

  1.  France

                France ranks third in EU wine production with a share of 21%. Each year in November, a young, red wine is released, named after the Beaujolais region in the east of France.

In France, there is a specific employment contract for this area - “grape harvest” contract, which is a specific seasonal contract that allows hiring employees to prepare the crop, for the preparation of the harvest, its realisation and the equipment storage work. It also has many particularities:

  • can be signed by an employee on paid leave for another company;
  • its duration is fixed for one month with a certain term, otherwise it is excluded for the continuation of the harvest;
  • can be renewed without a waiting period. In this case, the accumulation of contracts should not exceed 2 months out of 12;
  • cannot be renewed for next season.

In France, there is a statutory minimum wage of € 1,544.58 per month gross / € 10.25 gross hourly rate for 2021. Only young people and those employed under apprenticeship and vocational training contracts can receive a salary lower than the minimum guaranteed. The difference between gross and net salary is approximately 23%.

                You can see the full article on living and working conditions in France on the European Job Mobility Portal. On the website of EURES Bulgaria you can find information about working in France in Bulgarian here.

  1. Portugal

Portugal ranks fourth in EU wine production with a share of 5%.

The Portuguese Labor Code provides for the possibility of concluding short-term employment contracts, in particular in the case of seasonal activities (for example in the framework of agricultural campaigns or tourism, hospitality and catering). Contracts of up to 35 days are not necessarily in writing, but employers must always notify social security of its conclusion via e-form on “Segurança Social Direta” (Social Security Online) which includes the address of both parties, place of work, activities to be performed by the worker, salary, starting date and duration of the work contract - at the latest during the first day of work.

With regard to this specific type of contract, including renewal, contracts concluded between the employee and the employer must not exceed 70 days per year. Otherwise, if no other period of validity is specified in writing, it will automatically be assumed that the contract is for 6 months (as a way to protect workers' rights).

The minimum wage in Portugal is 775.83 Euros per month in 2021.

                You can see the full article on living and working conditions in Portugal on the European Job Mobility Portal. On the website of EURES Bulgaria you can find information about living and working in Portugal in Bulgarian here.

  1. Germany

Germany ranks fifth in wine production with a share of 4% in the EU. At the same time, the country is the largest importer of wine within the Union.

Since 1st January 2021, the total statutory minimum wage is EUR 9.50 gross per hour in accordance with the Minimum Wage Act in Germany. The seasonal worker and the employer may agree on separate rates in the employment contract complying with the minimum.

Working hours for employees are limited. When the seasonal worker works 8 hours a day, there should be 30 minutes break. Working hours are paid, but not the breaks.

The maximum is in general 60 hours in a week, which has to be offset within 6 months to bring the average down to 48 hours per week. This means that the seasonal worker works 10 hours a day (plus 45 minutes break).

When the seasonal worker works 6-9 hours, there is a 30 minute break. When working more than 9 hours, there is a 45 minute break (additional 15 minutes plus 30 minutes).

Seasonal work is inside the scope of social security protection if it is longer than 3 months or the seasonal worker is unemployed or looking for a job or the seasonal worker takes unpaid holidays because he wants to work in Germany.

The seasonal worker is in the scope of the:

  •  public health insurance
  •  public accident insurance
  •  unemployment insurance and
  •  public pension insurance.

There are social security contributions for the employer and for the seasonal worker. The employer cuts off around 20% of the wage (for the contributions of the seasonal worker). The employer pays another 20% contributions, too.

You can see the full article on living and working conditions in Germany on the European Job Mobility Portal. On the website of EURES Bulgaria you can find information about working in Germany in Bulgarian here.

  1.  Hungary

Hungary ranks sixth among wine producers with a 2% share in the EU.

The presence of foreign agricultural workers in the country was much more common in the 90s, but their numbers have declined significantly since then. From May to October, there are usually 30,000 to 50,000 guest workers in Hungary, most of them from Romania, Ukraine, a small part from Serbia, but today there is less demand for seasonal workers than decades ago. In Hungary, fruit and vegetable production has declined so much that far less manual labor is needed.

Simplified employment is an atypical form of employment used in many sectors, seasonal agricultural work and seasonal work in tourism since 2010. It has a number of benefits, is easy to file and has a favorable tax burden.

Although the rules of the Labor Code apply, according to the established for 2020, employees in simplified employment earn below the minimum wage and the guaranteed minimum wage. For 2021, the minimum wage in Hungary in Euro is 442 per month.

You can see the full article on living and working conditions in Hungary on the European Job Mobility Portal. On the website of EURES Bulgaria you can find information about working in Hungary in Bulgarian here.

Some advices in case you are a seasonal worker, especially in agriculture or are looking for seasonal work in another EURES country:

In the situation with Covid-19, always check the conditions for travel - what are the conditions for entering the country; is a test needed for COVD-19 and what kind of it; whether quarantine is required and for how long, etc. You can check the website of the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs from here.

In advance examine the employer, the conditions of the payment and work. Many employers in seasonal employment sectors provide accommodation - you need to know what the conditions of the accommodation are, from whom it is paid and what the cost is, whether the usual consumables are included in it. In the conditions of Covid-19 you must find out where you will be accommodated in case of quarantine on arrival and whether the employer or you must cover the costs. You also need to know what to expect as conditions in your labour contract and you must be aware what you are signing. Do not agree to work without a labour contract.


Traditionally in Bulgaria on the 14th February the holiday Trifon Zarezan - the day of the winegrowers and wine is celebrated.

In 2020, Bulgarian wine producers have processed 115 million kg. grapes, and the amount of wine produced by 317 wineries is 83 million liters.

The sector has centuries-old traditions and is increasingly strengthening its position on the European and world wine market. Wines of Bulgarian producers traditionally participate and win awards with impressive results in prestigious world rankings and forums. Bulgarian wineries successfully produce wines of world-renowned varieties and typically Bulgarian ones such as Misket, Muscat, Rubin, Gamza and others. Different categories of workers are needed for the wine production sector; incl. highly qualified specialists as technologists in production, as well as various positions in distribution.

The export of Bulgarian wine is currently mainly to EU countries, the United States, Russia, Japan, African countries and many others.

Sources of information: Eurostat article, European Job Mobility Portal, Living and Working Conditions section of the national EURES website, etc.

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