Job quality in the Irish construction sector

Wednesday 21 April sees the launch of the report that examines the state of play in Ireland’s construction workforce. We have partnered with TASC to produce 'Job quality in the Irish construction sector’ the first data-driven study of its kind to be published in Ireland.

Joseph Kilroy

Policy & Public Affairs Manager - Ireland

Last updated: 14th April 2021

Construction affects everyone, influencing productivity and wellbeing, creating the homes, hospitals, schools, workplaces, and infrastructure essential for a good quality of life. It is therefore important to reflect on the sector itself, so we can continuously improve the quality of life and career prospects of those working in it, now and in the future.

Accordingly, we are marking the CIOB’s first year of policy and research work in Ireland by publishing a report that examines the state of play in Ireland’s construction workforce. We have partnered with TASC to produce 'Job quality in the Irish construction sector’ the first data-driven study (based on datasets from EU SILC; CSO; and the Labour Force Survey) of its kind to be published in Ireland.

The report analyses the construction sector in terms of job stability, pay, and job satisfaction. It also shines a light on the demographics of the sector, as well as workplace culture. Inevitably, for a sector as far reaching and complex as construction, there is a multitude of data sets associated with it. Our colleagues in TASC have proved invaluable partners in making sense of the plethora of statistics this project has produced.

The data tells the story of a vast sector that is evolving over time. There are positive findings in the report that chime with insights we hear from members in our day to day work in Ireland. The data shows that ‘white collar’ workers in construction are highly paid relative to other sectors. This reflects the important work they do. In addition, the high levels of job satisfaction and autonomy across the construction sector reflect the visible contribution construction makes to society. These are important messages that need to be shared if we are to continue to attract the best talent into the sector.

CIOB’s Charter sets us apart as an organisation that works in the public interest. Therefore, while we celebrate the positive findings, we must also make sure that we tackle the significant challenges raised by this report. The data shows what our members have experienced directly over many years: the construction sector in Ireland is plagued by economic cyclicality. The data suggests that this wicked problem is the root cause of many of the other issues uncovered by this report: productivity; bifurcated pay levels within the sector; the pool of labour and the ability to attract new talent; job stability; and working conditions all suffer as a direct result of the construction sector’s perpetual boom-bust cycle. Cyclicality also negatively impacts the sector’s ability to meet housing and infrastructure need during an economic downturn, as well as the sector’s ability to respond and meet demand during an upturn.

While the report describes a sector that has evolved, there is still a lot of work to be done to improve inclusion and diversity and to create a culture of openness towards other workplace issues, including mental health. Over the course of the last year, the CIOB has taken a leading role in encouraging equality, diversity and inclusion in construction. We have hired a Transformation Lead to develop our global strategy in this important area. The data in the report suggests that this is a step that needed to be taken, particularly in terms of making the sector more attractive to women.

As the world's largest and most influential professional body for construction leadership it is incumbent on us to play a role in addressing these challenges. To that end, we have made six recommendations for the attention of policy makers and industry leaders which, if implemented, would be a significant step in the right direction. Ultimately, a thriving construction sector benefits not only its employees, but everyone who uses the built environment. It is therefore in the wider societal interest to celebrate the positives and address the challenges raised in this report.

Join us on Wednesday 21 April for the launch of the report with Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien. Click here to book your place: