Construction News

Mon October 18 2021

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Construction labour shortage ‘nothing to do with Brexit’

28 Sep A study of the construction recruitment market indicates that current labour shortages are due a post-lockdown boom and not the disappearance of EU workers.

Recruitment firm Randstad looked at changes in the ratios of vacancies to applications for jobs in the UK’s construction sector – using the volume of applications as a proxy for candidate volumes – across the UK’s construction workforce.

In the first half of 2020, Randstad said they had eight applications for every construction job advertised.  In the first half of 2021, this fell to five applications per job.

But the change was not driven by a collapse in the number of candidates applying for jobs.

Randstad found that the number of applications for construction sector roles did fall –  by 23 per cent – but more significant was the 39% rise in the number of job vacancies. 

Other industries are experiencing similar trends, it said.  The biggest change in the supply and demand was in engineering roles.  In the first half of 2020, there were 17 applications per vacancy.  A year later, there were only four applications for every role.   

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Adrian Smith, senior director of operations at Randstad UK said, “There are staff shortages across the west, including the UK. We think the labour shortages we are seeing in the UK are not, on the whole, being driven by a dearth of EU labour following Brexit.  The UK’s settlement scheme for residents of the EU had, by the end of May, received more than 5.6 million applications and at that point the programme still had a month to go. The ‘Brexodus’ hasn’t played out as we feared.

“Essentially, this is not primarily about a constriction in the supply of labour.  Workers are back in power because of the success of the vaccine rollout and the removal of lockdown restrictions – and the resulting economic bounceback – even with construction output having fallen recently.”

He said that the end of furlough at the end of this month should help to ease labour supply but will not solve the labour shortage problems overnight.

He also said that companies struggling to recruit should reevaluate their salaries and pay rates.  “Goldman Sachs is now offering graduates starting packages of £100,000 a year in the UK.  Construction employers are not, somehow, immune from these market forces.  At the start of the summer, we were seeing the average pay packet for construction workers up by 14% compared to the same time last year.”

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