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CITB report confirms UK construction firms rely on migrant labour

22 June 2017 #Immigration #Construction

Research commissioned by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has today revealed that a third of construction firms employ overseas workers, saying they have comparable skills to British workers and are more readily available. In light of Brexit and potential future limitations on labour flows, especially from the EU, the CITB, IFF Research and the Institute of Employment Research at Warwick University worked together to find out to what extent the construction industry relies on migrant labour.

The construction industry generates almost £90bn annually (6.7% GOP) and employs in excess of 2.1m people aged 16-64. According to Labour Force Survey (LFS):

  • just over a quarter of a million of these construction workers were born outside the UK (representing 12.6% of the total workforce)
  • 45% of non-UK construction workers were born in EU accession countries (representing 5.7% of the total workforce)
  • the most common non-UK countries of birth were Poland (55.5k), Romania (27.0k), India (19.4k), Lithuania (17.2k) and Ireland (15.0k).

To summarise, CITB’s report reveals that:

  • the common reasons for employing overseas workers was their availability and skills shortages;
  • overseas workers add flexibility, speed of response to skills needs and are often regarded as having a strong work ethic;
  • cheaper pay rates are not a common or key factor in why employers recruit foreign labour;
  • overseas workers are spread across roles, including skilled trades; and
  • 7 in 10 overseas workers hold a construction related qualification.

Our manging partner, Monica Atwal recently spoke to BQ Live about the business benefits of immigration and commented that the construction industry is a great example of where migrants add value in that they are literally building the UK. Although the construction workforce is still largely British, migrant workers do play a critical role especially in major projects and in London.  If we are to avoid a construction skills crisis after Brexit, the government must act to dispel uncertainties over the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy and clarify the status of EU nationals in the UK.  

CITB’s full report can be found here.


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