Spotlight: Brexit expected to cause skills shortage in British construction sector

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-01 10:44:13|Editor: pengying
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LONDON, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- Britain's construction sector may suffer a big skills shortage after Brexit and is already seeing a noticeable skills gap, a leading think-tank reported on Thursday.

If Britain goes ahead with Brexit, it may regulate European Union (EU) workers in the same way it does now non-EU workers.

This means just 10 percent of the current EU-born workforce in the construction industry may in future be allowed into the country to work, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

New IPPR modelling to forecast the potential impact of Brexit shows that construction is exceptionally vulnerable to changes in migration policy.

"Potentially 9 out of 10 workers currently coming to Britain would be excluded and it would mean that the construction sector would find it very much more difficult to meet labor and skills needs," Joe Dromey, senior research fellow at the IPPR told Xinhua on Thursday afternoon.

"The sector has become increasingly reliant to meet skills gaps in the past few years, especially in London. One in three construction workers in Britain were born in the EU," he added.

Dromey said there would be a very different post-Brexit migration policy and that four different types of system had been modelled by the IPPR.

All four would have "a very significant impact on migration in the sector."

"For EU nationals in the existing workforce it would exclude between two thirds and nine tenths," Dromey added.

The report showed that growing skills shortages are already constraining Britain's ability to build.

Construction has the joint highest level of skills shortage vacancies of any industry, and two thirds of chartered surveyors say labor shortages are limiting building activity, the IPPR said.

Despite the skills gaps, employers in construction have failed to train enough workers; the proportion of employers in construction providing training is second lowest of any industry.

The construction skills system is dysfunctional, the IPPR claimed, and recent reforms to the apprenticeship system may lead to a decline in construction apprenticeships at a time when Britain needs to see a huge increase.


The effects of Britain moving out of the EU began to emerge on the workforce.

Current unemployment rate is 4.3 percent, and the job figures are at a record high, meaning that skilled staff are in short supply.

And figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) on Thursday show net migration into Britain fell to 230,000 in June, over 100,000 less than a peak of 336,000 a year earlier.

The ONS said the Brexit decision was likely to be the factor in a 43 -percent fall in the number of Europeans heading to Britain during the year since the Brexit vote to find work.

At the same time, 123,000 EU citizens left Britain during the year, up 28,000 compared to 2016, added ONS.

Dromey said this was already affecting the construction sector and was a taste of things to come.

"The sector has become increasingly reliant to meet skills gaps in the past few years, especially in London. One in three construction workers in Britain were born in the EU," said Dromey.

"Our report focuses on currency, sterling has been devalued since the vote and for a lot of EU construction workers in Britain who can send money home, the fact that sterling is worth much less makes Britain much less competitive to work in," he said

EU workers were reacting to the uncertainty of the Brexit process, and did not know if they would be able to work in Britain in the long term.

"There is a great deal of uncertainty for EU construction workers' future eligibility to work in Britain," said Dromey.

"We have seen this in the migration statistics. We have seen an increase in the number of workers going home and a decrease in the number of workers coming to Britain," he said.

"We are already seeing some concern in the industry about the impact of the Brexit vote," he added.