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One in five workers for housebuilders from abroad

Words: Huw Morris
Construction / Shutterstock_268679729

Nearly one in five workers for housebuilders is from abroad, highlighting the industry’s heavy reliance on foreign labour in the light of Brexit.

A Home Builders Federation (HBF) survey of 37,167 workers on more than 1,000 housing sites reveals 19.7 per cent are “non UK”.

More than half - 56.3 per cent - on London sites are from overseas, with more than one in five workers in the South East from abroad.

However foreign workers’ importance is felt elsewhere. Nearly 18 per cent of workers in the East of England and 10.5 per cent in the South West are from overseas.

But in Yorkshire and Humber 1.8 per cent are “non UK” while in the North West the figure is nearly 6  per cent.

The HBF poll suggests the reliance of housebuilding on foreign workers is heavier than the wider construction industry where government statistics indicate 12.6 per cent of general construction workers across the UK are foreign-born, of which 5.7 per cent are from EU-accession countries. With ministers setting a target of 300,000 additional homes a year by 2025, the industry is calling on the government to recognise its needs.

The poll also shows the increasing risk to the industry from an ageing workforce and how the potential reliance on EU workers will grow in the coming years. While around 22 per cent of UK passport holders working in the industry are aged over 50, only 10 per cent of EU workers are in that age bracket. Around 70 per cent from the EU are in the 20-39 age group compared to only around a half of those born in the UK.

The industry is calling on the government to secure the status of existing employees as quickly as possible and ensure housebuilding jobs are represented in future immigration arrangements.

“Output is up a massive 74 per cent in recent years but achieving the very challenging targets set by government will require further big increases in workforce capacity,” said HBF executive chairman Stewart Baseley. “While the industry is investing heavily in recruiting and training young people leaving our schools, colleges and universities, continued access to overseas workers is absolutely essential.”

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