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Fears immigration reform will hit London construction sector

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Leading industry figures have aired their concerns about new government immigration policies, claiming that they could damage the capital’s construction sector. 

Over 50% of non-UK construction workers are based in London and plans to clamp down on “non-skilled”, low wage workers could hit the construction industry hard, according to industry bosses.

Under the proposals, those wanting a long-term stay in the UK would have to secure a job offer with a minimum salary of between £20,000 and £50,000 – the exact cut off point has yet to be decided. The new policy also removes the preference for those from the EU, with all immigrants treated equally regardless of country of origin.  

The most recent data, taken from the 2011 census, estimates that approximately 11% of the UK’s construction workforce was non-UK born. Over half of all non-UK born construction workers are based in the capital, and they make up 44% of London’s total construction workforce. 

Mace chief executive Mark Reynolds has voiced concern that the industry will suffer without access to ‘‘low skilled’’ labour under the new policy. 

Reynolds told New Civil Engineer: “It is very disappointing that the government has failed to listen to industry on the importance of maintaining access to a broad mix of labour after Brexit. The future of the UK’s construction and engineering sectors relies on the availability of both highly skilled specialists and so-called ‘low skilled’ labour.” 

“Without access to the right mix of skills we will be unable to deliver sustainable construction growth after Brexit.” 

Data from the Office of National Statistics lists the median yearly salary for the construction industry as just over £27,000.  


London First chief executive Jasmine Whitbread said the plans could cause serious damage and lead to shortages of certain skills.

“If you look around offices, building sites, hospitals and high streets, there is a mix of high skilled and lower skilled workers,” she said. “We need both. Bringing the shutters down on lower skilled migration without a credible plan to fill the skills shortages left behind will do serious damage. There needs to be time to invest in new ways of working and high-quality training of homegrown talent.”

“The UK has a hard-won reputation as a magnet for global talent and the government must send a clear message that Britain is open to the people we need: make them feel welcome and make the process to apply simpler. It must scrap the net migration target, enshrine EU Citizen’s rights in law and bring back the post-study work visa for international students.”


Naismiths managing director, Blane Perrotton said that the construction industry could become the first casulty of the tougher immigration policy: “With the government confirming its plans to make it harder for European workers to come to the UK after Brexit, the construction industry could become an early casualty.”

“With UK construction already struggling from a chronic skills shortage and Brexit sapping investors’ confidence, British builders need restrictions on European workers like they need a hole in the head.”  

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