Construction industry faces post-Brexit “double whammy”

Official data shows the construction industry is highly susceptible to a potential “double whammy” fallout from Brexit.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) highlights two particular areas of concern for the UK – the ageing British construction workforce and a reliance on EU workers in the capital.

According to ONS figures 7% of the construction workforce was made up of people from the other 27 EU countries, with 3% from non-EU countries.

Although the industry average is similar to the national average of 6% EU workers and 4% non-EU workers, the industry could be set for a workforce crisis.

The ONS found a 13% increase in the number of workers aged 45 years and over in the construction industry between 1991 and 2011, but non-UK nationals are generally younger.

Indeed, just 18% of non-UK construction workers were aged 45 years and older, compared to 47% of UK nationals.

Meanwhile, in London, 28% of construction workers are EU nationals and 7% are non-EU nationals.

This compares to 13% who are EU27 nationals and 10% non-EU nationals for all other industries in London.

Manny Aparicio, national head of project management at property consultancy and surveyors, Naismiths warned the report made it clear the UK housing crisis could soon be facing a recruitment crisis of its own.

“The youngest blood in UK construction is currently the non-UK nationals but if Brexit makes the UK a less attractive place to work then that demographic could disappear at the same time as the older UK hands retire,” he said.

“It’s a double whammy. If Brexit does make it harder for overseas workers to take up jobs in construction, due to increased red tape and potential costs, the construction industry will suffer.

“Also, we have an ageing workforce of UK construction workers that is simply not being replenished at the required rate. Once a significant percentage of UK construction workers retire, and that day is fast approaching, the sector will struggle,” he said.

Aparicio also noted that the industry was seen as “far less sexy” than other sectors such as technology and this was reflected in the declining number of apprenticeships.

“Anyone in the construction sector needs to understand the potential cost increase of workers during the decade ahead. Failure to factor this in could be disastrous,” he added.