Over 8% of UK construction workers are from the EU

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has warned that upcoming government migration policies must be based on “key occupations” in order to address the major skill-shortage facing the construction industry.

Chief Executive for the FMB Brian Berry released a statement following the recent interim update by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). It highlighted the fact that several of Britain’s industries, construction included, have a heavy reliance on skilled workers from the EU.

Commenting on what the update put forward for the industry, Berry warned that “we now need a serious delivery plan in place to make sure it happens.

“The skills requirement of key sectors such as construction need to be taken into account as the Government begins to shape these policies. The construction industry should be viewed by the Government as a key strategic industry, as without it Ministers will be unable to meet their ambitious plans for the delivery of new homes and infrastructure projects. Currently over 8% of construction workers are from the EU, and in London this rises to a third. Recent FMB research shows that skills shortages across construction are already at a record high, and this will only worsen if poorly thought-through policies lead us off a cliff edge in terms of our access to skilled EU workers.”

via GIPHY

The status of foreign workers in the UK has been a subject of major debate in recent years, even before the 2016 referendum. It is a particularly sore subject for construction, however, given the current housing crisis facing the nation.

The Migration Advisory Committee was commissioned in July 2017 in order to assess the impact of Brexit on the UK labour market and decide how our immigration system would need to adapt. 

“The recent news that the Government has offered permanent residency for EU nationals arriving during the post-Brexit transition period is a positive step for construction firms across the UK,” Berry continued. “However, any future migration visa system should be based on key occupations that are in short supply rather than on arbitrary thresholds based on skill levels or income.”

Admittedly, we may have taken the mick out of the FMB once or twice over the last couple of weeks. However, Mr Berry makes an important point about the role of smaller firms in employing EU nationals.

“What’s more, the Government should take into account that the vast majority of the construction workforce are employed by small and micro firms. Asking these firms to sponsor foreign workers is not realistic and will simply not work for this industry. We are still waiting to see what the post-Brexit immigration system will entail, however we need a serious plan in place to ensure we have the right skills and migration policies in place for a post-Brexit Britain.”

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