Roughly one it 10 construction industry workers in the UK is from another country originally – mostly mainland Europe. There were widely reported fears of an exodus of these – a Brexodus – after the UK left the European Union.
According to the Labour Force Survey, in 2018 10.7% of the UK construction workforce was from overseas (8.6% from a current EU country); in 2019 that figure was 10.2% (or 8.2% for EU nationals) – a drop of about 5%.
However, the construction industry in Great Britain will need to recruit an additional 250,000 workers in the next four years, according to the Construction Industry Training Board. Under new immigration rules, it remains possible to recruit from overseas, but more hassle.
A survey by the CITB* found that one in three construction companies expects to provide more jobs for British workers as the sector rises to challenges presented by Brexit and Covid-19.
Among the findings of the latest CITB migration survey were that 41% of employers will look to increase the skills of British workers, almost a third (30%) will provide more permanent jobs for Brits, but only 24% will increase minimum salaries, and just 16% will look to take on more local apprentices.
Results indicate a slight fall compared with previous years in perceived dependence among those employing any non-UK workers directly (33% were very, or quite, dependent in 2020, down from 43% in 2019), though the proportion of 'very dependent' in 2020 (20%) was higher than in 2019 (7%).
In contrast, employers that employ non-UK workers indirectly reported increased reliance on non-UK workers: the proportion that saw themselves as ‘very’ dependent on non-UK workers increased from 14% in 2019 to 26% in 2020, while the proportion of those responding 'very' or 'quite' dependent on non-UK workers was 44% in 2020, compared with 33% in 2019, 36% in 2018 and 32% in 2017.
One interesting trend unearthed was that, while employers reported a fall in the number of immigrant employees, there was a rise in the number of self-employed immigrants working in the British construction industry, which has become a hard avenue for new immigrants without employers sponsoring them.
There appears to be a tendency for business managers to regard the end of the free movement of labour as a problem for other people. Only 16% of construction companies responding to CITB’s survey expect that issues with migrant workers not remaining in the UK will impact their own firm, yet 72% expect it to impact on the sector – with 27% anticipating a serious impact.
Most employers reported no change in their number of immigrant workers over the last year, 13% reported a fall in employing them, and only 2% a rise.
Just over a tenth of the construction workforce are migrants, with the proportion falling from 10.7% in 2018 to 10.2% – a drop of about 5% in two years – with most coming from the EU.
The number of employers dependent on migrant workers has fallen slightly (from 15% in 2019 to 13%). While those directly employing migrants (ie. as staff) fell by 11%, the number of firms indirectly employing migrants rose by the same number.