10 Things You Might Not Have Known About the UK Construction Industry

Around the world, construction businesses pump trillions into economies, providing housing and working spaces for billions of people. But what is the situation like in the UK? We’ve put together ten things you might not have known about the UK construction industry… 

Staff are often self-employed

The UK construction industry is unusual when compared to other sectors or indeed other nations, as a high proportion of construction staff is self-employed – 36% in the second quarter of 2019 to be exact – when compared to the national average of 13%. Many people who work in the sector use an umbrella contracting company to enjoy the benefits of being an employee whilst retaining their contractor status, offering flexibility and peace of mind.

£117 billion to the UK economy

The UK construction sector is big business, worth more than £100 billion per year; that’s 6% of the whole economy. In 2018, economic output was down, and data suggests that the sector is facing further challenges thanks to political uncertainty and subdued client demand.

2.4 million jobs

In the UK, more than two million people work in the construction industry, representing 6.6% of all jobs in the nation. That’s more now than there ever has been, though the way jobs and workers are categorised has changed in recent years, so the figure could be even higher.

300,000 businesses

There are more than 340,000 businesses working in the construction sector in the UK, 13% of all registered businesses in the nation. That’s without mentioning the number of people and businesses who work in the construction industry “unregistered” – as in, they work for themselves as a self-employed contractor or run their affairs with staff as sole traders.

Most jobs in the South East

If you’re looking to work in the construction sector, then you’ll want to head to the South East, where 365,000 construction jobs are available – that’s 7.5% of all jobs in the sector. London is closely in second place with 346,000 jobs, the North West employs 246,000 in the construction industry, and the North East lags behind with 68,000 employed in the sector.

A third are non-UK nationals

One of the biggest challenges businesses face in the next couple of years is Brexit, as more than a third of all construction workers are non-UK nationals. Indeed, 35% of all construction staff are from outside of the UK, and in London, that figure is considerably higher. How firms will fill skills gaps in the coming years remains to be seen, but costs and prices could climb.

Urbanisation is causing challenges

In the UK in 1900, just 16% of the population lived in an urban area. Now, more than half of us live in cities, which are densely populated and causing challenges for the sector. The UK is struggling to meet housing demand, though innovations in the sector should help to build more affordable housing, such as modular property building that cuts costs significantly.

The world is changing

It’s not just the UK where cities are becoming popular. By 2050, more than 70% of us around the world will live in cities, and the population will climb from seven billion to 9.5 billion. If we want to be able to accommodate this growth and reduce our carbon footprint, we’ll need to become much smarter with our construction designs – how we do that remains to be seen.

The UK’s environmental policy is strong

Though certainly not perfect, the UK has a strong environmental policy designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. By 2050, it wants to cut them by 80% when compared to 1990 levels. Back in 2009, it was reported that buildings account for almost half of all of the UK’s emissions, so companies are now working harder to create eco-friendly homes and offices that do more good for the environment than bad. We’re getting there.

There’s only so much space

80% of the housing that will exist by 2025 already exists and 66% of all housing that will exist by 2050 has been built. With an ever-growing population, many wonder how the UK will cope with increasing demand for new build properties. In the years that follow, governments will need to work harder to encourage consumers to consider shared living spaces such as apartments and terraces to ensure that demands can be met long-term. Good luck with that.

Did any of these facts surprise you? Let us know on social media.

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Ronald J. Merrell

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