One in four construction workers in London from EU

February 27, 2017 / Isla MacFarlane
One in four construction workers in London from EU

New figures show almost 100,000 of the capital’s construction workforce are from the European Union.

Sadiq Khan warns that a loss of skilled EU workers could have a seriously detrimental effect on home building and other construction projects in London.

New figures in a report released today by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, have laid bare the crippling effect that Brexit could have on homebuilding in the capital. The report reveals that more than a quarter of London’s construction workforce is from the European Union – and their future in the UK will be uncertain if the government goes ahead with a so-called ‘Hard Brexit’.

The report sets out that of those working in London’s construction sector – the workforce behind building much-needed new infrastructure, affordable homes and office space in the capital – 95,000 are from the EU.

The Mayor today sets out why he believes these figures underline the enormous contribution that Europeans make to London. He has been clear that retaining and having access to a highly skilled workforce is absolutely essential to protecting jobs, growth and tax revenues across Britain over the decades ahead.

The Mayor is also hugely concerned about the impact Brexit could have on the housing industry, with the government refusing to guarantee the status of EU workers currently living in the UK.

His ‘Housing in London’ report shows there are 350,000 people who work in London’s construction sector, of which just over half are from the UK, while 27 per cent are from the EU. The remaining part of the workforce is from other European countries (three per cent), while 14 per cent is from the rest of the world. Industry experts also suggest that London needs up to an extra 13,000 new workers each year until 2021 in order to plug the skills gap and meet the additional demands on the construction industry, highlighting just how important it is for London to be able to continue to attract the talent it needs post-Brexit.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said, “When I speak to businesses – both large and small – one of the biggest issues they raise with me is the skills gap. They tell me that maintaining a skilled workforce is absolutely crucial to their future and the future of the whole economy.

“London is in the grip of a serious housing crisis – and fixing it is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. While we are working to train up more Londoners to have the skills to work in construction, you can’t escape the fact that a ‘Hard Brexit’ could leave a quarter of the skilled construction workforce in the capital high and dry which would have a crippling effect on our plans to build the homes Londoners so desperately need.”

Cllr Peter John, Leader of Southwark Council and member of the London Economic Area Partnership, said, “We urgently need more skilled construction workers in London. The Mayor has asked me to bring together partners from local government, developers, the construction industry and training providers to address this.

“While the challenges are significant, made even more urgent by the expected impact of Brexit, the leadership provided by the Mayor on this issue will enable us to work together to propose sustainable solutions in order to ensure a world-class construction workforce for London.”

Mark Farmer, CEO of Cast Real Estate & Construction Consultancy, said, “It’s very clear that the construction industry is far more reliant on migrant labour than anywhere else in the U.K. To safeguard against this, London will require at least short to medium term continued access to EU migrant labour and early protections given to its existing migrant workforce.

“As part of a longer term plan, the construction sector, in partnership with developers and supported by the GLA, needs to come up with a clear strategy for attracting and training more home grown talent and also developing more modern, higher productivity construction techniques which are less labour intensive, helping to future proof the industry.”

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