UK construction industry could lose 8% of workforce post-Brexit, new RICS figures reveal

The UK construction industry could lose almost 200,000 EU workers post-Brexit should Britain lose access to the single market, putting some of the country’s biggest infrastructure and construction projects under threat, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has revealed.

RICS has cautioned that for Brexit to succeed, it is essential to secure continued access to the EU Single Market or to put alternative plans in place to safeguard the future of the property and construction sectors in the UK.

Latest RICS figures show that eight per cent of the UK’s construction workers are EU nationals, accounting for some 176,500 people. Thirty per cent of the construction professionals surveyed revealed that hiring non-UK workers was important to the success of their businesses.

The UK is already in the grip of a construction skills crisis. While some overseas professionals such as ballet dancers are regarded as critical by the UK government, and are therefore prioritised during the visa application process, construction professions have not yet been added to the ‘UK Shortage Occupations List’. RICS is warning that this could already be placing the UK’s predicted £500bn infrastructure pipeline under threat and must be addressed as a priority.

When asked about the effectiveness of current plans to address the UK’s long-term skills shortages, 20 per cent of respondents felt that apprenticeship schemes were not effective at all.

RICS Head of UK Policy, Jeremy Blackburn said:“These figures reveal that the UK construction industry is currently dependent on thousands of EU workers. It is in all our interests that we make a success of Brexit, but a loss of access to the single market, has the potential to slowly bring the UK’s £500bn infrastructure pipeline to a standstill. That means that unless access to the single market is secured or alternative plans are put in place, we won’t be able to create the infrastructure needed to enable our cities to compete on a global stage. We have said before that this is a potential stumbling block for the Government, which is working to deliver both its Housing White Paper and Industrial Strategy.”

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