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Sat May 25 2024

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Building site census reveals full extent of reliance on migrant labour

5 Dec 17 One in five people working on house-building sites in England is a foreign national, a survey by the Home Builders Federation reveals.

Most foreign nationals on English sites from Romania
Most foreign nationals on English sites from Romania

In London, more than half of construction workers in house-building are from outside the UK.

Romanians account for more than half of the foreign nationals working on English building sites, the census revealed.

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) carried out the survey of 37,167 workers on 1,090 of its members’ building sites. It found:

•          19.7% of workers on house building sites across the country are not UK nationals

•          56.3% of workers on London sites are from overseas.

•          15% of bricklayers are non-UK workers (48.5% in London).

The HBF said that its survey shows the reliance of house-builders in England on foreign labour. It said that continued access to skilled EU workers post Brexit was essential to deliver the government’s housing targets.

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There were substantial regional variations, with 17.9% of workers in the east of England from overseas, 10.5% in the southwest 5.9% in the northwest and just 1.8% in Yorkshire/Humber.

The country of origin of the overseas workers was:

  • Romania 53.9%
  • Poland 11.8%
  • Ireland 9.7%
  • Lithuania 7.7%
  • Bulgaria 6.3%
  • Italy 2.5%
  • Latvia 1.4%
  • Hungary 1.3%
  • Portugal 1.3%
  • Greece 1.0%
  • Slovakia 0.6%
  • Spain 0.6%
  • France 0.3%
  • Germany 0.2%
  • Czech Republic 0.2%
  • Estonia 0.2%
  • Netherlands 0.1%
  • Cyprus 0.1%
  • Croatia 0.1%
  • Finland 0.1%
  • Sweden 0.1%

Official statistics suggest that 12.6% of general construction workers across the UK are foreign-born, of which 5.7% are from EU-accession countries. The census suggests the reliance of housebuilding on foreign workers is heavier than the wider construction industry. With house-building such a key priority for government, the HBF wants ministers to recognise the needs of house-builders.

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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