Half of workers on London housebuilding sites from overseas

5 December 2017

More than half of workers on housebuilding sites in London are from the EU or abroad, while one in five across England are from overseas, highlighting the impact Brexit may have on the sector.

A new survey by the Home Builders Federation (HBF) shows the reliance the housebuilding sector has on overseas workers and with housebuilding being a key priority for the government, the survey results are significant.

The survey was carried out among 37,167 workers on more than 1,000 of HBF members’ sites.

Among the findings were:

According to official statistics, 12.6% of general construction workers across the UK are born overseas, of which 5.7% are from EU-accession countries.

The HBF survey suggests the reliance of housebuilding on overseas labour is heavier than the wider construction industry.

Reliance on overseas labour is the heaviest in the South East, where housing demand is acutest, and in particular London, where more than half of workers are from abroad.

With housing supply in the capital at its highest since the 1930s but still well short of what is needed, safeguarding and growing this workforce is of vital importance.

Broken down, the results showed that Romania was the leading non-UK nationality on housebuilding sites with 7.29% of the workforce. This was followed by Poland with 1.53% and Lithuania at 1.32%.

The census also shows the increasing risk the industry faces from an ageing workforce and how the potential reliance on EU workers will grow in the coming years. While more than 22% of UK passport holders working in the industry are over 50, only 10% of EU workers are in that age bracket. Around 70% from the EU are in the 20-39 age group compared to only around a half of those born in the UK.

HBF executive chairman Stewart Baseley said: “The results of this census clearly demonstrate the reliance the industry currently has on non-UK workers. Output is up a massive 74% in recent years but achieving the very challenging targets set by government will require further big increases in workforce capacity.

“Whilst the industry is investing heavily in recruiting and training young people leaving our schools, colleges and universities, continued access to overseas workers is absolutely essential.”

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