A report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a Blairite soft-left think tank, says that the construction industry is “a bad place to work” and is thus facing a growing skills crisis.
The report, titled Skills for a green recovery, written by IPPR policy wonks Oscar Watkins and Dean Hochlaf, says that the construction sector is overly reliant on self- employed workers and is not doing enough to bring in new blood.
“We recommend that parliament should establish a cross-party commission to investigate options for tackling bogus self-employment in the construction sector,” the report says. “The commission should work alongside unions and industry bodies, to ensure that the views of workers and businesses are represented.”
It says: “The construction sector has become reliant on cheap and insecure labour. Around 40% of the construction work force is self-employed (ONS 2020), higher than anywhere else in Europe. While wages in the industry are relatively high, employment is insecure, and workplace inequality is a major issue… Poor working conditions and a bad record on inclusion are obstacles to hiring talented people. Our research finds that solving this problem will require more forceful regulation of employment practices, underpinned by new legislation. Importantly, we find that industry itself would welcome these changes.”
The report is also critical of skills and employment programmes in the construction industry, saying that they are “hamstrung by a lack of collective action among firms and a lack of leadership in government”.
It adds: “These programmes are therefore failing to align industry-wide demand for construction skills with overall supply of construction workers and delivery of vocational training.”
Problems of the aging construction workforce, identified by Mark Farmer’s report five years ago, have got worse, the IPPR says. It finds that the proportion of workers aged below 30 has shrunk from 22.8% to 20.3% over the past five years, while 34.6% of workers in the sector are now over the age of 50, implying that up to 750,000 workers would either retire or be on the verge of retiring over the next 15 years.” If these trends continue the sector may be faced with severe workforce shortages,” the report says.
Skills for a green recovery is available at www.ippr.org/research/publications/skills-for-a-green-recovery