Construction accounted for approximately 6% of the UK’s gross domestic product in 2019 and employed nearly one in ten of the workforce. Despite the sector’s huge role in the economy and its influence on our key economic indicators, productivity has been largely flat over the last 20 years, although there are signs of some small recent gains. Conversely, industrial manufacturing has improved by more than 25% and automotive by over 45%. Of course, those activities are largely not at the mercy of the inclement British weather. However, Britain is not alone in facing uncertain external conditions and yet Germany built 3.6 homes per 1,000 people in 2018 and France built 6.8. In the UK we managed 2.25.
It is difficult to point to a single cause for the lag in productivity. It could be the fragmented nature of our sector, the lack of connectivity and co-operation between supply chains or the methods of building and our approach to technical and quality specifications. The ways we attempt to reduce cost are likely unhelpful and add to the productivity and rework conundrum. Piecework certainly sounds like a nice idea: what better way is there to motivate someone to work faster than by tying their remuneration directly to their output?
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