More than two million workers will be needed in the construction sector in Europe by 2030

A comprehensive report commissioned by the ITUC Just Transition Centre and the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) highlights the needs of workers in the construction industry in Europe to be upskilled and re-skilled for future work, and stresses just how many new workers the sector must attract and retain to achieve the Renovation Wave and other relevant EU climate law targets.

The report, entitled "Skills and Quality Jobs in Construction: Executive Summary", has been carried out by researchers Andrés Mella and Edmundo Werna. It relates to the new set of policies and investments in Europe intended to renovate and expand EU building stock, as outlined in the Renovation Wave and other related EU climate-law targets.

One of the sector’s main challenges is attracting personnel and retraining existing workers. A key point is that the industry needs transformations to be green, digital and resilient.

Tom Deleu, General Secretary of EFBWW "There are already labour shortages; around 2m workers will be needed as a conservative estimate. We must use the Just Transition process as a way to attract workers to the construction industry, improve working conditions, bring in new workers from the young and female population, and retain current workers."

The report calculates potential direct and indirect employment effects of the Renovation Wave and associated skill requirements:

  • Up to 1.5m additional workers needed in the sector between 2023 and 2030.
  • 1.2m workers needed to replace ageing workers leaving the workforce.
  • More than 5,000 labour inspectors will be required to ensure labour rights and working conditions are effectively respected on construction worksites.
  • Investments in green construction have strong knock-on effects with millions of additional jobs being created along the construction supply chain.
  • Plans in the industry need to not only include upskilling and reskilling, but also new entrants to the sector.
  • To prevent outsourcing, green job creation needs to be local, inclusive and provide decent work.

The launch of the report took place with workers’ representatives , employers, the European Commission and the International Labor Conference (ILO).

Gunde Odgaard, President of EFBWW Standing Committee Building, representing workers said: "We need to create the right basis when we talk about skills. What are the skills related to greening the industry? Vocational training in general is an issue since low skilled workers will not conquer the European Green Deal."

Domenico Campogrande, Director General of FIEC represented the employers’ association in the construction industry and commented: "It’s the first time that we see quantification regarding labour needs in the sector. We need to look at it through new glasses in order to prepare for the new skills and jobs that do not exist in the sector right now.”

Roman Horváth, Policy officer at the DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs of the European Commission, added: "Responsibility for training lies with the member states and the industry. The EU has created mechanisms to support that work. We must look at the sector as a larger system, rather than isolated individual professions."

The ILO estimates that 220m people work globally in construction. Elisenda Estruch, Economist working as Rural Economy and Construction Specialist in ILO’s Sectoral Policies Department brought the global perspective to the panel. She said: "In view of the challenges ahead, two points to underline: first, evidence is key to inform timely and bold action; and second, a human-centred approach is crucial for the just transition in construction, including by promoting a safe and healthy working environment in construction."

The report concludes that the most important training needs relevant to the Renovation Wave will be specialised energy efficiency, basic climatic literacy, and occupational safety and health. The report also provides policy recommendations to deliver the Renovation Wave.

Diana Junquera Curiel, Special Advisor at the ITUC Just Transition Centre said: "In order for us to hold meaningful discussions with affiliates on the way forward for the construction sector in Europe, we needed to understand the sector better in the context of its ability to respond to the European Commission’s initiatives. With EFBWW, the JTC commissioned this study and we will continue working together to guarantee that the changes in the sector go together with decent jobs for workers."

Skills and Quality Jobs in Construction: Full report
Skills and Quality Jobs in Construction: Executive Summary