Why Romanians Could Be The Key To House Building Shortage

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According to the latest RICS Construction Market Survey, Q4 2013 House building is being hindered owing to labour shortages. Is this a case of jobs available that idle Brits wont do? I ask if we encouraged employment from Europe including Romania would these shortages be met?


House building across the UK continued its revival towards the end of 2013 with the private sector leading the way. However, the current increase in activity is being met with some shortages of both skills and materials, according to the latest RICS Construction Market Survey.


Alan Muse, RICS Director of Built Environment, commented:

“With the economy having turned a corner in recent months, it would seem that the construction industry has followed suit and activity is up right across the country. More homes are being built, infrastructure is being upgraded and each part of the UK is benefiting from this more positive picture. However, with recent estimates stating that over 230,000 new homes need to be built just to keep up with population growth, further initiatives from the government will be necessary to get close to this target.”


Are the skills needed to help get Britain available from Romanian workers?


It’s remarkable with high unemployment that we have a skills shortage that’s hindering our house building. We hear stories that a section of the unemployed will not work on low skilled jobs and that these positions are being filled by European migrants. This leads me top think is the housing sector underpaying its staff are they reliant on agency staff that are over represented by EEC migrants?


The TUC claims agency staff are paid up to £135 a week less than permanent staff despite working in the same place and doing the same job because of a loophole in the Agency Workers’ Directive.

Migrants are over-represented among the estimated one million agency workers in the UK


Even UKIP admitted that the UK had a skills shortage in a recent BBC interview Nigel Farage said “Let’s be flexible on work permits, let’s recognise that we do have some skills shortages in the British economy – which is very much a failure of our education system,”


Despite the fact that the recovery in the construction industry is only just getting underway, skills shortages are already being identified as a constraint on activity. 36 percent of respondents claim that labour shortages are restricting building. Skills shortages are increasing across all of the trades but bricklayers remain particularly scarce due to strong demand from the housing sector. A higher percentage of respondents are now reporting problems sourcing relevant skills than at any time since mid-2006.


During the final three months of the year, almost forty percent of respondents also claimed that a scarcity of materials is limiting activity with surveyors noting that bricks and concrete blocks, in particular, are in short supply.


Significantly, infrastructure construction – a core priority of the government’s economic plan – is showing signs of picking up speed with the pace of growth increasing at its fastest rate in almost seven years (net balance 24 percent).


The improving picture in the construction sector is also visible at a regional level with workloads rising for the second consecutive quarter in all parts of the country. Significantly, the stronger regional picture is evident in most segments of the construction industry.


Looking ahead, expectations for future construction activity were extremely upbeat with 74 percent more chartered surveyors expecting workloads to increase rather than decrease during 2014. Furthermore, predictions for employment levels and company profits were also very positive, suggesting that the construction sector may at long last be beginning to prosper.

It seems we need to get to the heart of the labour shortages within the housing sector, do we blame the construction companies for low wages and poor conditions? Should we look at our British labour market and learn why they are not prepared to work in the sector? Do EEC workers provide the skills we need and should we be prepared to accept this so that the British economy does not suffer?

Author Nick Marr is behind the UK’s biggest for sale by owner website at The House Shop

Twitter @nickcmarr


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