The UK construction industry could lose almost 200,000 European Union (EU) workers post-Brexit according to new figures.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said that if Britain loses access to the single market, it could threaten some of the country’s biggest infrastructure and construction projects.
The RICS said its latest figures showed that 8% of the UK’s construction workers were EU nationals, accounting for 176,500 people.
It said that, despite the skills shortage, construction professions had not yet been added to the “UK Shortage Occupations List”. As a result some overseas professionals, such as ballet dancers, are regarded as critical would be prioritised during the post-Brexit visa application process.
It warned that failure to put EU construction workers on the shortage occupations list could bring the UK’s predicted £500bn infrastructure pipeline to a standstill.
It has now cautioned the government that for Brexit to succeed, it was essential to secure continued access to the EU Single Market or to put in place alternative plans to safeguard the future of the UK construction sector.
Ballet dancers won’t improve our infrastructure or solve the housing crisis, yet their skills are currently viewed as essential, whereas construction professionals are not.
Jeremy Blackburn, RICS
”These figures reveal that the UK construction industry is currently dependent on thousands of EU workers,” said RICS head of policy Jeremy Blackburn. “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.
“We have said before that this is a potential stumbling block for the government, which is working to deliver both its Housing White Paper and Industrial Strategy.”
He added: “A simple first step would be to ensure that construction professions, such as quantity surveyors, feature on the ‘UK Shortage Occupations List’. Ballet dancers won’t improve our infrastructure or solve the housing crisis, yet their skills are currently viewed as essential, whereas construction professionals are not.”
Blackburn said it was now important to have an industry that was resilient to change and able to withstand the impact of political or economic shocks. He said key to this would be to grow the domestic skills base.
“As the industry’s professional body, we are working with government and industry to develop that skills base, building vital initiatives, such as degree apprenticeships, in our sector to drive the talent pipeline forward,” he said.
“This survey reveals that more work needs to be done to promote the indisputable benefits of these schemes to industry — RICS intends to take this forward as a priority.”
A Government spokesperson said: “As we leave the EU, we will build a stronger, fairer and more global Britain.
“Through our Industrial Strategy, increased investment in infrastructure and our new offer on skills and technical education, we will stimulate long-term growth in the construction sector and improve the quality of people’s lives across the UK.
“European nationals make a vital contribution to the economy, which is why we want to secure the status of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, and the status of British nationals living in other member states, as early as we can.”