Brexit Risks Losing Thousands of EU Construction Workers in the UK

construction workers
Image Source: Bill Jacobus, CC BY 2.0

According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Brexit could cause the UK’s construction industry to lose more than 8% of its total number of construction workers, which is equivalent to more than 175,000.

Unless the country would retain access to the European single market, the loss could put key construction and infrastructure projects at risk, especially at a time when the industry is also facing other issues, such as tax changes.

In its survey for the last quarter of 2016, RICS found construction businesses stating that hiring non-UK workers is essential to their success and companies working on large projects are the ones being most affected.

Commenting on the matter, RICS head of UK policy Jeremy Blackburn said:

“These figures reveal that the UK construction industry is currently dependent on thousands of EU workers [around 176,500].

“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.”

As it has been pointed out, the government has to secure continued access to the European single market or create alternatives for construction firms to easily hire non-EU replacements for lost workers. This means that skilled construction workers should be added to the country’s list of shortage occupations.

Aside from the Brexit, Blackburn also mentioned the controversial increase in national insurance contributions for the self-employed as another critical factor that would hit the construction sector.