June 19, 2018 / 11:13 AM / 3 months ago

London construction firms rely heavily on EU workers, figures show

LONDON (Reuters) - More than a quarter of London’s construction workers come from elsewhere in the European Union, according to new figures on Tuesday that highlight the British capital’s reliance on EU immigrants ahead of Brexit next year.

FILE PHOTO: A builder assembles scaffolding as he works on new homes, in south London June 3, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Winning/File Photo

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said 28 percent of construction workers employed in London between 2014 and 2016 were nationals of other EU countries, more than double the percentage of EU workers in other industries in London.

The figures for the capital contrast with the United Kingdom as a whole, where only 7 percent of the 2.2 million construction workers were from elsewhere in the EU - similar to other sectors.

Construction, which accounts for 6 percent of British economic output, has struggled since the 2016 Brexit vote as uncertainty about Britain’s future relationship with the EU has made companies reluctant to invest in major projects.

“The London construction sector is particularly exposed to potential fallout from Brexit,” said Manny Aparicio, national head of project management at property consultancy Naismiths.

FILE PHOTO: Construction work is seen on high-rise office blocks in the City of London in London, Britain, January 25, 2018. Picture taken January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

London accounts for about a fifth of Britain’s construction output.

The ONS figures also showed an ageing construction workforce across Britain.

“The youngest blood in UK construction is currently the non-UK nationals, but if Brexit makes the UK a less attractive place to work then that demographic could disappear at the same time as the older UK hands retire,” Aparicio said.

More than three quarters of the 165,000 EU nationals working in Britain’s construction sector come from the 10 relatively poor central and eastern European countries that joined the EU between 2004 and 2007. A further 10 percent are from Ireland.

Separate data published last month showed the number of European Union nationals working in Britain fell for the first time in eight years at the start of 2018, figures that prompted alarm among employers.

The drop was driven mostly by workers from eastern European countries.

A worker installs an edge trim on the AXA IM - Real Assets Twentytwo building in London, Britain April 20, 2018. Picture taken April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Staples

Editing by Andrew Heavens

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