News Item: Research Highlights Impact of Migrant Workforce on UK Construction Industry

A new CITB report has revealed the number of migrant workers in the UK construction industry fell by 8.3% in 2020.  The Migration in UK Construction 2021 study emphasised the impact on the sector of the number of construction workers who have left the UK since Brexit. Pandemic-related pressures have resulted in even greater numbers leaving, despite increasing demand for staff.

CITB said the research showed there are 25,000 fewer workers in the sector than in 2019. Over the last three years the number of migrants working in construction has fallen by 15%, from over 326,000 to 280,000.

The report analyses ONS Labour Force Survey data from 2020 and includes insight from two group discussions with MDs, owners and directors of medium and large construction companies.

The headline data shows a range of factors that have contributed to skills pressures facing our sector. It shows that the change to a new Points Based Immigration System is proving to be a challenge for the construction industry. This is combined with increasing demand for workers, rising wages and cost of materials that are squeezing employers.

Key findings from the research showed:

  • The number of migrant workers in the UK construction industry fell by 8.3% in 2020, with 25,000 fewer workers in the sector than in 2019. However, this is in the context of the whole industry shrinking by a similar percentage;
  • Over the last three years the number of migrants working in construction has fallen by 15%, from over 326,000 to just 280,000, the equivalent of one in every seven migrant workers leaving the sector;
  • ONS data shows year-on-year wage rises, including bonuses and arrears, peaked at +15.1% nationwide in May 2021, and continued to record an above average +6% in September 2021. This is against a whole economy reading of +4%, supporting anecdotal evidence that labour shortages are driving up prices.

We know that developing homegrown talent will be at the heart of addressing these skills challenges and that the government is taking action to grow apprenticeships and to get more college students into construction jobs. Employer investment in key skill areas such as apprenticeships is recovering and should improve further in 2022. But for many, their struggle to deliver on current workloads is hampering their ability to free up time to invest in training just when it’s most needed.

To download The Migration in UK Construction 2021 report, click here.