16,500 Irish construction workers in the UK, report finds

Non-UK EU nationals make up more than a quarter of the construction workforce in London, according to official analysis.

It found 28% of those employed in the industry in the capital are from one of the 27 other EU member states, referred to as EU27 nationals.

Of the 165,000 EU27 nationals in construction, it is estimated that just under half (49%) are from the EU8 countries that joined the bloc in 2004 – Poland, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia and Latvia; 29% are Romanian or Bulgarian; and 11% are from 14 longer-term member states.

10% are Irish nationals, which means 16,500 construction workers in the UK are from Ireland.

The figures were disclosed in a paper published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday.

Estimates from the annual population survey show that an average of 2.2 million people worked in the construction industry between 2014 and 2016.

Seven percent of workers in construction in the UK are EU27 nationals, while 3% are non-EU, the report said.

It added: “In London, 28% of construction workers are EU27 nationals and 7% are non-EU nationals; this compares to 13% who are EU27 nationals and 10% non-EU nationals for all other industries in London (excluding construction).”

Workers covered by the report include those working in commercial and home-building, infrastructure construction such as roads, railways and bridges, and specialised activities such as demolition.

The report said the construction workforce is ageing, with a 13% increase in the numbers of workers aged 45 and over between 1991 and 2011.

Non-UK nationals in the industry are younger (18% aged 45 and older) compared with UK nationals (47% aged 45 and above).

Two-fifths (41%) of construction workers were self-employed between 2014 and 2016, while a third of resident non-UK nationals in construction occupations are in “general labour”.

The reliance of some sectors on migrant labour has come under close scrutiny after the Brexit vote.

Figures published last month showed the number of EU nationals working in the UK had registered an annual fall for the first time in eight years.

Officials are working to draw up post-Brexit arrangements which incorporate an end to free movement rules, while ensuring that any fall in overseas labour does not damage the economy.

The Home Office has commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to report on the impact of exit from the EU on the UK labour market, with the full assessment due by September.

- Press Association

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