builders helmet

Government has announced new immigration plans based on a points based system designed to open the UK to the “brightest and best in the world”, to take effect from the 1 January 2021.

However, the new system has drawn criticism as points are awarded for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions, with a minimum salary threshold set at £25,600. This threshold must also be accompanied by qualifications to A level or equivalent, with no specific route for low-skill builders.

There seems to be a disconnect with the policy between Government targets for house building and the numbers of people able to do general work to facilitate these homes to be built.

The Federation of Master Builders commented saying that the UK needs an immigration system that allows for a range of skill levels for key construction workers, including low skill labouring roles, necessary to keep the country building. Without this, the FMB stressed that the immigration policy could act as a restrictor on the construction industry’s capacity to deliver.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive, said, “We will need general labourers as much as architects or surveyors. They are a core part of the construction industry and it’s simply unrealistic to assume the domestic workforce will fill this gap in the next nine months.”

Government figures for construction found that, in 2018:

  • 7% of workers in construction in the UK are EU nationals and 3% are non-EU, which is higher than all other industries in the UK – 6% EU nationals and 4% non-EU nationals.
  • In London, 28% of construction workers are EU nationals and 7% are non-EU nationals; this compares to 13% who are EU nationals and 10% non-EU nationals for all other industries in London.

In addition, it also found that the workforce is ageing, with a 13% increase in the numbers of workers aged over 45, while one third of the resident non-UK nationals working in construction in the UK were general labourers, with many being self employed.

Employment agency Reed puts the average general labourer salary in the UK at around £20,000.

construction workers chart

Employed includes those on a government employment and training program and also those who were unpaid family workers.

In 2017 the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors reported that the shortfall in the number of skilled construction workers was it its highest point since 2007. While the new apprenticeship schemes look set to start boosting trainee numbers, they do not reflect the skills that come with years of experience – compounded by the fact that RICS reported that nearly 430,000 construction workers are to retire between 2010-2020.


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