A post-Brexit decline in the number of EU-born workers, combined with a surge in construction demand, has created a squeeze on labour in the construction industry.
Recruitment agencies are reporting that contractors are finding it harder to employ workers at existing rates and are facing cost increases. They predict rates will increase by at least 10% and finding workers that are ‘high quality’ and up to ‘standard’ will be a challenge; “this will lead to the best workers having more power to command premiums for their work.”
Darin Burrows, director of recruitment agency City Site, told Construction News he believes the fall is down to four factors: a weaker pound since 2016, relatively healthy construction markets on the continent, a more hostile environment towards European workers since Brexit and COVID-19. He said: “By the time you factor all these things in, is it any wonder we’re seeing a deluge of people who either go home or just don’t want to work?”
More than 40% of members of the Finishes and Interiors Sector trade body are reporting a labour shortage and 60% are expecting to face one.
Data from the Office for National Statistics revealed that more than one in four EU-born construction workers had left the industry between September 2019 and September 2020. The Construction Products Association reports that the total fall in construction employment was only 7%, compared to this 28% drop in EU-born workers and a 10% drop in non-EU migrant workers.
Even pre-Brexit and COVID-19, in major cities such as London and Birmingham, a worker would face minimal barriers moving from one company/site to another if the working conditions appeared better. This demand for labour and the power shift to those still available for work only places more importance on construction firms providing a comfortable work environment and welfare facilities on-site.
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