UK Faces Shortfall of over 100,000 Construction Workers and Qualified Engineers by 2050

The UK’s workforce will have a 3.1m person shortfall by 2050 if skills shortages are not addressed.
construction work immigration and emmigration
construction work immigration and emmigration
Jan. 28, 2013 - PRLog -- ·       Construction and Engineering sectors in top five disciplines most affected

70% of current nuclear workforce will be retired by 2025
Work related emigration has risen 16% since 2007 while work related immigration has fallen 24%

The United Kingdom faces a shortfall of 66,800 construction workers and 36,800 qualified engineers by 2050 due to skills shortages, an ageing workforce and restrictive migration policy, according to Randstad CPE, the specialist recruiter for the construction, property and engineering sector.

The UK workforce as a whole will have a deficit of 3.1m by 2050, a figure which represents 9% of the required workforce. Using employment rates from the most recent European population analysis from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, as a measure of demand, Randstad analysed the projected changes in UK population and working age rate for 2050 to establish the gap between employment demand and workforce supply.

The analysis showed that with a population of 74.5m, in 2050[ii] the UK will require a workforce of 35.4m[iii] to meet demand. However, will a pool of just 45.1m people (60.5% of the population) forecast to the eligible to work in 2050, even if the employment rate matches pre-downturn levels of 71.6%, an ageing population will leave the UK with only 32.3m people in employment – 3.1m short of the 35.4m required to meet demand.

Engineering & construction sector in top five disciplines predicted to be most impacted

Randstad also forecast the workforce shortfall across some key professions. Qualified engineers represent 1.2% of the UK workforce[iv] whilst construction staff represent 2%, assuming this proportion remains constant, by 2050, the UK will have a deficit of 36,800 engineers[v] and 66,800 construction workers

The education sector will be the worst affected with a projected shortfall of 128,000 teachers.


Projected Shortfall (2050)







Qualified Engineers


IT and Tech


Social Workers


Qualified Accountants




Owen Goodhead, managing director of Randstad CPE, said: “The engineering and construction sectors are vital for the overall health of the UK economy. Infrastructure projects and private and public sector developments not only provide employment, they create wealth opportunities for both the suppliers to the projects as well as the end user. Our projections for the size of the engineering workforce are conservative, yet they paint a very grim picture for the UK’s economic prospects. Unless we can plug the employment gap, the engineering and construction sectors will be unable to perform efficiently and this will have serious consequences for the prosperity of the country.”

Migration is one of the key drivers behind the skills shortage in the engineering and construction sectors. Since 2007, overall work related emigration from the UK has risen 16% while work related immigration has fallen 24% over the same period[vi] (see chart 1). The combination of poor economic performance and changes to immigration policy have made the UK a less attractive place to work among the world’s most talented professionals and trades people.  

However.  the UK engineering and construction sectors have also had to deal with significant demand for talent from overseas. Huge infrastructure projects in preparation for the World Cup and Olympics in Brazil are providing a huge draw for international talent, as is demand in locations such as Nigeria (oil industry), Australia (mining) and New Zealand (earthquake reconstruction).

Ageing workforce

An ageing workforce is also a threat to the future of the engineering sector with the industry facing huge levels of retirement over the coming decades. This presents a particular problem for the large-scale energy projects planned in UK over the coming years. EDF plan to invest £20bn in low carbon nuclear generation over next 15 years, however, 70% of current nuclear workforce will be retired by 2025[vii].

Owen Goodhead, said: “If the UK economy is to grow and overcome the difficulties of the last few years then it requires a strong workforce capable of meeting demand. However, we also need a workforce that is capable of supporting the UK’s changing energy needs.

“Unfortunately, with a stagnant economy and crippling migration policy, the UK represents a much less attractive option for both domestic and overseas talent. A growing economy will not only help prevent home-grown skilled tradesmen and engineers from moving overseas, if it’s combined with a sensible migration policy, it will also encourage foreign workers to consider a career in the UK. Without foreign talent bolstering the engineering and construction workforce the sector will have to deal with a large black hole over the coming years.”

- ENDS -

Notes to editors

The Randstad group is one of the leading recruitment & HR services providers in the world with a top five position in the UK and a top three position in fifteen countries including the US, France and Germany.
In the UK, Randstad’s business lines serve the public and private sectors across Accounting and Financial services; Business Support; Construction, Property and Engineering; Education; Health and Social Care; Interim Management and Search; Human Resources; IT;  

The proportion of the population of working age (16 to 65)

[ii] Population projections from Eurostat (a 21% rise compared to 61.3m in 2008)

[iii] This is based on a 21% rise in the number of those employed in 2008 (29.1m)

[iv] Eurostat’s most recent analysis of European population and employment rates

[v] James Dyson recently forecast a shortfall of 217,000 engineers by 2017 – we cannot find any statistical basis for this forecast

[vi] Analysis of ONS migration data from 2002 to 2011 (most recent full year of data)

[vii] Migration Advisory Committee – Skilled, Shortage, Sensible – Sept 2011
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