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Vast majority of European architects expect a qualitative labour shortage

Most European countries are seeing positive growth figures for the construction industry, with only Italy lagging behind.

Positive growth figures

Most European countries are seeing positive growth figures for the construction industry, with only Italy lagging behind. This growth has further increased the expectancy of European architects that there is/will be a qualitative labour shortage.

The construction sector is still estimated to be the leading industrial employer in Europe, representing 7.5% of total European employment with an approximate workforce of 11 million (directly employed in the European construction sector). During the crisis years a lot of workers were laid off (in 2007 the workforce was an estimated 14,8 million) and not all have returned to their former construction jobs.

Labour shortage

In the Q2 2016 report of the European Architectural Barometer (theme; design and technology trends) we asked the European architects about their expectancy towards qualitative and quantitative labour shortage in the construction industry. A vast majority of European architects expect or already experience a qualitative labour shortage. French architects experience/expect it the most, the architects in the Netherlands the least. This measurement was taken before the brexit, we would expect the share of English architects experiencing/expecting qualitative labour shortages to be higher now.

When it comes to quantitative labour shortages there are more differences between the countries. In Spain and Italy the architects are experiencing/expecting the least quantitative labour shortage (about 50% stating that this will never happen), in all other countries this is considerably higher.

Drivers of this trend

So what are the drivers behind these labour shortages? Basically, the break down to a couple of factors.

Let’s start with the qualitative labour shortage. Buildings and construction in general is becoming more complex. This requires more skills. There is a mismatch between the skills needed and the skills available in the labour force. In some countries, the education/training of new workers is also not on par with the current needs.

Regarding the quantitative labour shortage main drivers are; a declining population of working age, a decrease in participating rate, an increase in labour demand, a decreasing appeal of working in construction and a geographical mismatch between supply and demand in Europe.

These shortages are both a challenge and an opportunity for manufacturers. On the one hand building products are getting more complicated, but if manufactures can provide solutions that require less installation time and are easier to install, this could lead to added value.