What are the Main Challenges Faced by Construction Industry in the UK

Construction Industry in UK
Industry Trends and Forecasts

Construction Industry is on the steady upswing since 2009 accounting for 6.3% of UK GDP in 2016. The sector value has risen to £137.6 billion from just £113.0 billion 7 years ago.

Sounds good and optimistic?

Or is it the lull before the storm – something that inherent challenges of the construction industry are trying to pull on? On this cautious note, we dived into stats and patterns to unearth 3 main challenges faced by construction industry in the UK today.

They are:

  • Diminishing Workforce
  • Skewed Gender Participation
  • Digitalization

Diminishing workforce – primarily due to ageing and Brexit:

Did you know that 32.5% of construction workforce in the UK is aged 50 and over? That young entrant (16-24 years) participation is even less than 10%? Clearly, there are more people leaving the industry than ones replacing them. And with around 500,000 workers are expected to retire from the industry over the next 10 years, the shortfall is going to get more critical.

To give you an idea of how critical the issue of ageing workforce for construction firms is, let’s use some more data to get further insight.

So as to complete major housing and infrastructural projects on time and in budget. And before you jump the gun and blame Brexit for it, hold your horses as this figure has been arrived at without taking into account the implications of Brexit – hard or soft – on the industry. Now talking about Brexit, let’s anticipate the impact it will have on the industry as well. The research states that a hard Brexit will reduce the workforce by over 210,000 while a more lenient policy will see some 130,000 workers migrating elsewhere.

Skewed gender participation in the industry:

It’s a proven fact that gender-diverse businesses improve workplace environment facilitating innovations and generating more revenue. This is why more and more businesses in the UK are bringing more women in the workforce. To quote you some facts, 46.8% of total UK workforce in 2016 was women and this proportion is increasing even as we write.

However, construction industry in the UK is largely untouched from this trend and it still remains as male-dominated as ever.  Men accounts for 87.6% of total construction workforce in 2016 – which is more or less same as the corresponding figure of 87.5% a decade ago in 2007.

It’s not all gloom and doom though, as women participation is indeed increasing in profiles considered to be women-friendly like: office jobs.

86.4% of administrative and secretarial roles were held by women. Furthermore, in the same period, sales and other service occupations were dominated by women, with 57.5% of jobs held by them.

But when it comes to hardcore construction roles that require going out in sun and breaking sweat over building and repairing stuff, women are hardly visible. The category most dominated by men is skilled trade roles (99.2%), followed by operatives and elementary occupations (97.0%), managers and directors (85.5%) and professional and technical occupations (70.1%).


With technologies like 3D printing, Building Information Modelling (BIM), drones, robots and off-site manufacturing changing the way construction is done; people are as excited as worried.

Many construction roles – like bricklayers and quantity surveyors – will lose their importance or vanish altogether while demand for people with qualifications in logistics, data analysis, supply chain management, production management will surge. Although this suggests new roles will be created, largely office-based, concerns remain whether this will be enough to offset the decline in low-skilled workers.

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