22 June 2017

Migration and the construction industry

A CITB (Construction Industry Training Board) report into migration in the construction industry has revealed that a third of firms employ migrant workers.

The GB-wide research by CITB, IFF Research and the Institute of Employment Research at Warwick University, brings together the view of construction firms, employment/ agencies and migrant workers. Over 600 interviews were completed to provide a picture of the role migrant workers play in the construction industry. 

Over a third of the employers who employ staff from outside of the UK, say they do so because there are not enough skilled applicants from the UK, rather than for cheaper labour. The issue is magnified in London where one in two employers say they are ‘very dependent’ on migrant workers, compared to around one in six in Yorkshire and the Humber.

The research also showed that while the largest number of migrant workers are general labourers, there is a wide spread across many skilled areas such as architects, carpenters/joiners and plasterers.

Recruitment agencies reported that EU nationals are more commonly placed than non-EU migrant workers and two in five agencies are expecting staff shortages due to Brexit. However the overall workforce is still mainly British, with only 1 in 8 construction workers born outside the UK.

Professor Anne Green who carried out the research at Warwick University’s Institute of Employment Research, says:

"The UK construction sector relies on migrant labour alongside UK workers to meet demand. This is especially the case in London. Migrant labour plays a key role in offering flexibility for the sector to respond in a timely fashion to project requirements. This means that the future immigration policy matters, as does training of UK workers."

Steve Radley, Director of Policy at CITB, says:

“Our detailed look at migration labour in construction illustrates how it gives employers the flexibility to respond rapidly to a range of skill needs. It shows that the construction workforce is still largely home-grown but migrant workers play a critical role, particularly in major projects and in London.

While most firms are not reporting an impact from Brexit, those who employ migrants are concerned about the future availability of EU workers.  But with over three quarters of construction workers expecting to stay in the next 12 months, we have breathing space to adapt to any changes in migration policy.”

For more information, visit: http://www.citb.co.uk/news-events/uk/2017/top-reasons-gb-employers-migrant-workers/