Revealed: How UK's construction workforce is ageing

19 June 2018 | By Neil Gerrard


The UK construction workforce is ageing while the number of younger workers, at least those born in the UK, declines.

That's according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which has studied the migrant labour force within the construction industry.

The ONS found there was a 13% increase in the number of workers aged 45 and over in the construction industry between 1991 and 2011 but non-UK nationals are younger (18% aged 45 years and older) compared to UK nationals (47% aged 45 years and older).

In 2011, it was estimated that one in every five UK-born construction workers were aged over 55, meaning that by 2021, those people will nearly have reached retirement age.

However the ONS said there was no known data that can "robustly estimate" entrants and leavers to the workforce by industry, which would allow a better understanding of the ageing population.

There are estimated to be around 2.2m people working in the UK construction industry, of which 10% are non-UK citizens. Some 7% are estimated to come from EU27 countries with 3% from non-EU countries.

Around 33% of the resident non-UK nationals in construction occupations work in general labour.

The proportion of those EU nationals working in London is much higher than in the rest of the country, with the Annual Population Survey (APS) suggesting that 28% of construction workers are from the EU and a further 7% are non-EU nationals.

The ONS found that 41% of those working in construction were self-employed between 2014 and 2016, while those from the eastern European EU8 countries that joined the European Union during its 2004 enlargement were 63% self-employed, and those from Bulgaria and Romania (the EU2 nations) were 66% self-employed.


The original apprenticeship system in place after world war two guaranteed a steady flow of young persons into the industry via the well established building companies trading at that time who supported the time honoured system of training future tradesmen.
Although this period (1945-1960) was disrupted by compulsory military service of two years, the industry kept building because there was a regular supply of skilled labour.
Lots of the well established building companies eventually became swallowed up by Carillion type conglomerates, and this lead to different priorities in the management of the supply of labour by these organisations.
Wates Construction remains a family held construction company and should be used as a well established model of a true and successfull Builder!!!

John Anthony, 22 June 2018

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