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Construction wages three times higher than national average, new study reveals

The skills shortage in construction has pushed the sector’s wage inflation to three times higher than the national average, a new study has revealed.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ UK construction market survey revealed that industry wages rose by an average of 6 per cent in 2015, three times higher than the national average.

RICS said the lack of skills in the sector was also jeopardising some of the government’s biggest housing and infrastructure projects.

More than 60 per cent of construction professionals that responded to the survey reported that they had seen sharp wage increases in the sector. Two-thirds of respondents cited labour shortages as the biggest barrier to growth in the sector.

The statistics come just a week after a report by Arcadis found that rapid rises in labour costs in London were threatening construction growth in the capital.

RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn said: “While workloads are still growing at a relatively healthy pace, labour shortages in the construction sector are causing delays at different stages in the development process and leading to significant problems with project planning.

“That said, industry wages are becoming increasingly attractive, and I would hope that over time this will encourage skilled workers to return to the sector, as well as drawing school-leavers and graduates towards construction industry careers.”

Bricklayers and quantity surveyors were found to be the construction professions in shortest supply, with 62 per cent and 60 per cent of respondents reporting difficulty finding workers in these trades respectively.

The survey did reveal that a net balance of respondents (+33 per cent) were still seeing an increase in the number of projects they were taking on in Q4 2015. Nevertheless, this was down from the previous quarter, when the balance was +39 per cent.

RICS future talent director Sally Speed said: “The construction skills crisis is slowing growth in a sector that is vital to UK plc.

”Unless government looks to address the problem urgently, some of its key housing and infrastructure programmes could soon face crippling delays and spiralling costs.

“To tackle the problem, government must deliver a new skills strategy that will enable industry, unions and educators to work together and deliver real solutions. Apprenticeships alone will not be enough. Ministers must look to draw a link between education, future careers and skills.

“Employers need to take the lead in improving skill levels, providing more vocational pathways to work and actively engaging with our country’s schools and colleges.”

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