Policy Officer at the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW)
The Renovation Wave is coming and the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) fully supports it! The construction sector and the workers will have a major role in this. The efforts will be enormous, financially and for employment, but must not be at the expense of workers.
A study EFBWW has commissioned showed that up to 1.5 million additional workers will be needed in the building, construction and energy renovations sector between 2023 and 2030. Around 1,3 million additional job posts will need to replace the ageing workforce in the same period (read full report here).
But the construction industry is confronted with high labour shortages combined with a general lack of attractiveness. We witness high levels of exploitation, fraud, and other labour abuses, especially in a cross-border context (e.g. posting of workers). Subcontracting is always a major factor in disguising employment relationships, circumventing tax and social security payments, escaping joint and several liabilities, and hiding from controls by labour inspection bodies. The longer the subcontracting chain, the less transparent and the more difficult to control and enforce existing legislation and collective agreements (read the EFBWW subcontracting campaign).
Clearly, merely marketing strategies to promote the sector on the employment market will not solve the problem. The construction sector can recover its reputation only by improving working conditions, changing the business model and investing in new technologies which reduce physical workload. We observe that these can attract young people and women as well to the sector.
In its Renovation Wave, the EU states deep renovation efforts need to be doubled (or even tripled for public buildings according to the Energy Efficiency Directive) to reach the climate targets which would mean up to 40 million buildings need to be renovated by 2033.
Energy renovation requires systematically upgrading insulation, windows and heating and cooling systems for which a qualified workforce is needed. Also, new sub-sectors in construction will emerge or will expand due to circular economy strategies such as waste management, maintenance, repair and recycling.
The quick recruitment of untrained workers increases accidents. For example, the majority of renovations will release asbestos. Workers need to be trained and qualified to protect their health. Further, vocational education and curricular training need to be modernised taking into account green skills and new professions evolving from the green economy. Only qualified workers will deliver quality work for a sustainable and long-lasting energy efficiency of buildings.
Last but not least, a transition can only be successful if everybody is taken on board and nobody is left behind. A trustful and cooperative social dialogue between employers and workers has proven to be the best tool for realising and implementing innovative solutions and, thus, reinforcing the sector and its companies.