Warning of labour shortages in construction sector

SCOTLAND’S construction industry could be facing a significant shortage of workers, if it wishes to reach the country’s target of being a net zero emitter of greenhouse gases by 2045.

According to the Fair Work Convention, by 2029 alone Scotland will require 79,100 additional workers, not least because an estimated 50,000 workers will have retired within the next decade.

Says the convention, here: “The construction industry is at the forefront of the [country’s] transition to a net zero carbon economy, with 40 per cent of national carbon emissions coming from the built environment… The need to transition to a net zero carbon economy and undertake largescale retrofitting on existing building stock raises significant new challenges around skills and investment but also offers an opportunity to transform ways of working and offer high-quality work to a greater range of people, dealing with the long-standing diversity issues in the industry.”

In the introduction to a wider report, Fair Work in Scotland’s Construction Industry, the FWC begins: “An independent review of working practices in Scotland’s construction industry… is calling for urgent interventions by government, employers, [trade] unions and industry leadership groups to improve the quality of work for the 130,000-strong workforce in Scotland and to help embed fair work into Scotland’s £7 billion construction industry.”

Among the findings of that wider report (here):

Research commissioned by Construction Scotland in 2020 estimates that, for every £1 spent on construction output, a further £2.94 is generated in the economy, while construction exports were worth £125 million, 0.4 per cent of Scotland’s total international exports.

Comparing the structure of the construction industry in Scotland to the UK highlights that infrastructure spending is particularly important within Scotland, accounting for over a fifth of work, compared to a UK figure of 14 per cent. Scotland also has a higher level of public housing output (seven per cent) compared to the UK (three per cent).

In 2020, total employment in construction in Scotland was 130,000 (5.1 per cent of all jobs).

Also in Scotland in 2020: 84.6 per cent of workers were men and 15.4 per cent were women; 37.3 per cent of workers were over 50 years-old, compared with 33.3 per cent for Scotland as a whole; 1.6 per cent of workers in the construction industry were from a minority ethnic background, compared with 4.3 per cent of minority ethnic workers in Scotland as a whole; 10.5 per cent of workers in the construction industry were disabled, compared with 13.4 per cent for Scotland as a whole; 33.7 per cent of workers in the construction industry were parents of children aged 16 or younger, compared with 30.2 per cent for Scotland as a whole; six per cent of employees in the construction industry were women with dependent children (aged 0-16), compared with 15.4 per cent for Scotland as a whole; 5.9 per cent of workers in the construction industry were non-UK nationals, compared with 9.2 per cent for Scotland as a whole; 94.5 per cent of employees in construction aged 18+ had a permanent contract, lower than for Scotland overall (94.9 per cent); and 8.1 per cent of those working in the construction industry worked part-time, compared with 26.2 per cent for Scotland as a whole.

Also in 2020, self-employment accounted for more than 23.5 per cent of the construction workforce in Scotland, but this was the lowest level of self-employment recorded in the industry during the last ten years, with self-employment more typically sitting between 25 per cent-29 per cent; and median pay for full-time employees in the construction industry was £29,055, compared to £26,007 across all sectors.

Picture credit: Place Design Scotland

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