Recent Release | 16 Nov 2022

Disrupt or die – Australia’s construction industry is at a crossroads

Construction Consulting Team

In 2020 the Australian Constructors Association commissioned BIS Oxford Economics to report on the opportunity cost of the poor productivity performance of Australia’s construction industry since 1990. The findings from the report have since been used to support the association’s advocacy efforts. Recognising the significant change to the construction landscape over the past few years, in September 2022 the Australian Constructors Association commissioned BIS Oxford Economics to update the data. This document reports on the latest findings.

In the eyes of the next generation of workers, construction is an industry that is stuck in the past. More businesses fail in construction than any other industry and, as an industry that operates on wafer-thin margins, workers are under pressure. They work long hours, suffer high-stress levels and are six times more likely to die from suicide than a workplace incident. Diversity is low and women make up only 12 per cent of the workforce.

In a recent survey less than one-third of Gen Z respondents said they would consider a career in the built environment. The industry has no choice but to transform, if for no other reason than to maintain a workforce large enough to deliver the substantial pipeline of work it is being called on to deliver. The demise of Australia’s construction industry is of national significance. Construction contributes 7 per cent of GDP and employs almost 1 in 10 of the working population.

This is the very industry called upon to rebuild Australia’s economy following the COVID pandemic. It is vital to the health of the economy and, importantly, the quality-of-life Australians enjoy. The link between improved productivity and industry sustainability is strong. Improvements to the industry’s productivity performance could save Australia $47 billion annually. Savings of this magnitude would go a long way in improving Australia’s budget bottom line and establishing Australia’s construction industry as a worldwide leader representing best practice. Government, industry and unions all agree on the opportunity and, more importantly, the need for change. Incremental change and 10-year horizons are out. To keep the industry alive it must transform, and it must transform now.

About the team

Our consulting team at BIS Oxford Economics are the world’s leading analysts of the global infrastructure construction sector. They combine their expert insight with our state-of-the-art economic models and tools to answer the crucial questions facing our clients. The lead consultant on this project was:

Adrian Hart

Associate Director, Infrastructure Construction, BIS

Private: Adrian Hart

Associate Director, Infrastructure Construction, BIS

Sydney, Australia

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