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Construction workers’ wages hit hardest during pandemic

Figures just released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the wages of construction workers have fallen more than in any other sector of the economy.

The coronavirus has devastated economic output throughout the world, with many sectors such as travel and tourism, retail and the service industry as a whole decimated by lockdown restrictions. The construction sector has responded well as a whole, with growth beginning to recover admirably in the UK, which perhaps makes the latest statistics surprising and rather disappointing for construction workers.

In August, UK construction total pay, including bonuses, was 3.2 per cent lower than a year ago. Part of the explanation comes from social distancing measures: while a great many construction firms showed remarkable tenacity in returning to sites as soon as possible, activity was disrupted more by social distancing restrictions between late March and mid-May than in some other sectors.

While many businesses were able to continue working from home, largely without a loss in revenue, construction obviously depends on workers being on site.

August’s wage change in construction, while lagging behind the rest of the sector, still represents a significant improvement on the 11 per cent year-on-year fall seen in April.

SAEMA (Specialist Access Engineering and Maintenance Association), as the national trade body for the permanent and temporary façade access equipment industry, has long been a foundation in supporting its members within the construction and FM sectors. It delivers the very best training and guidance available, with a commitment to advancing safety through  raising the standards in best practice.

Falls from height remain the leading cause of death in the workplace – that is an unfortunate constant within the construction industry. Now, more than ever, workers in Construction and FM need to take great care to maximise their safety and everyone on site. It is SAEMA’s aim to reduce and ultimately eliminate injuries and deaths in the workplace.

One very positive statistic from the ONS’s latest release shows that job postings are rebounding and firms are actively taking on more employees. The construction industry averaged 22,000 vacancies between July and September. This figure is almost triple the low of 8,000 recorded between April and June, during the height of the lockdown. However, it is still short of the 27,000 job postings seen for January to March, prior to the coronavirus hitting the UK.

The sharp upturn in vacancies is reflective of the increase in contracts within infrastructure, housebuilding and residential refurbishment. Hopefully this will also begin to be reflected in workers’ wages too. Meanwhile, ONS figures also showed that the UK unemployment rate had increased to its highest level in more than three years, growing to 4.5 per cent in the three months to August.

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