The Undercover Economist: Harvesting the fruits of your labourers

For many business owners, getting the most out of staff is a perennial problem. In the case of fruit farmers, perhaps perennial is the wrong word: workers show up only for the summer harvest. In a couple of weeks they will be heading home, usually to a university course somewhere in eastern Europe.

Tough work for the fruit pickers, the business is also a headache for the owner, who must offer a pay scheme that both satisfies minimum wage laws and motivates workers in an industry in which slacking is an understandable temptation.

The owner of a large fruit farm business, “Farmer Smith”, was pondering the problem one Christmas, when he discovered that the connection between pay and performance was also an area where economists were scratching around for solid evidence.

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Tim Harford’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

Tim, also known as the Undercover Economist, writes about the economics of everyday life.