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One third of the European architects experience labour shortage in the execution of projects

The labour shortage in the European construction market is growing, a development we have seen in several studies on specific sectors like for instance painters and contractors. On the one hand, it seems hard to motivate younger generations to pursue careers in construction, mainly due to a persistent image of construction jobs to be low-status and low-wage jobs. On the other hand, due to the ageing population in Europe, a substantial amount of skilled workers will leave the construction labour market as they are due to retire in the next decade or so. The net result is an increasing labour shortage which is increasingly affecting the construction market.

Labour shortages

To get a better understanding of this development we focused the Q2 2019 report of the European Architectural Barometer on labour shortage and asked architects about their experiences and perceptions on the matter. 

On average, about three out of ten European architects are currently experiencing labour shortage in their own practice. What is more important for the overall construction market though, is that 34 percent of the architects are currently seeing labour shortages affecting the execution of projects, and 40 percent expect labour shortages in the execution of projects in the coming five years.


When looking at specific countries vast differences occur. In the Netherlands, for instance, a staggering 64 percent of architects are currently experiencing labour shortage in the execution of projects, whereas this is only 14 and 16 percent in Italy and Spain respectively. Despite these differences, it is clear that labour shortage is becoming an increasing issue for the European construction sector.

European construction industry grows

Meanwhile, on average, the European construction industry is still growing, which leads to an increasing demand for labour. Combined with an increasing shortage of labour, it stands to reason that labour costs and consequently projects’ costs will rise, and that projects might be delayed, expectations shared to varying degree by architects from European countries.


On a brighter note, labour shortage also leads to opportunities. The usage of solutions that are less labour-intensive, like prefab elements and plug-and-play solutions for instance, is expected to rise. In the Netherlands, for instance, where the labour shortage that is currently experienced is highest, over 60 percent of the architects expect labour shortage to be a driver for increased usage of prefab elements.


Overall, it is clear that labour shortage is an increasing issue for the construction industry and more than half of the European architects do not expect this issue to be resolved in the next five years. It is advisable for manufacturers to keep a close eye on these developments to be able to grasp opportunities and provide solutions that are less labour intensive.

European architecture barometer Q2 2019

For more detailed information about the development and perception of labour shortage in several specialised sectors in eight European countries, we refer you to the Q2 2019 report of USP’s European Architectural Barometer.