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Next-gen construction workers deterred by industry’s long hours, report finds


A new report released by the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce (CICT) has found that young people are reluctant to join the construction industry due to the perception that the working hours are incompatible with a healthy work-life balance.

The report, led by RMIT University, tracked the experiences of 136 NSW trainees aged between 17 and 23 who spent two years in the infrastructure construction industry while completing a TAFE course. The majority of the trainees, both male and female, observed the long hours worked in construction and expressed doubts about choosing it as a career path.

According to the report, 79% of the participants are seeking a job with hours that allow them time for non-work roles and interests, with only 31% believing they could combine a career in infrastructure with family and social commitments. Furthermore, only 26% thought they could combine construction with parenthood, and just 30% believed a job in the industry would give them some control over their work time or would not take them away from home for long periods.

Distinguished Professor Helen Lingard from RMIT University, a co-author of the study, highlighted the discrepancy between what trainees want in a career and what they believe the industry offers.

Gabrielle Trainor AO, Chair of the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce and Chair of Infrastructure Australia, expressed concern over the findings, especially given the acute shortage of workers needed to deliver the nation’s $237 billion infrastructure pipeline. “This has serious implications for the industry’s productivity. Skills shortages translate to higher costs. We believe working hours, the dreadful statistics on health and wellbeing and on diversity in construction are interrelated and must be tackled together,” she said.

Trainor emphasized that construction is an exciting and immensely satisfying industry, and if it offered better work-life balance, including more flexible hours and, wherever possible, a five-day Monday to Friday week, it would be significantly more likely to attract young people, particularly young women.

CICT research reveals that 64% of current construction industry workers are working more than 50 hours per week, while 59% say they are unhappy with their work-life balance. Trainor also cited a recent NSW Building Commission report, which found that 63% of construction workers surveyed are considering leaving the industry, with difficulty achieving work-life balance cited as the main reason.


Jon Davies, CEO of the Australian Constructors’ Association (ACA), noted that trainees also described the importance of respectful workplace relationships, an inclusive, gender-diverse and fair work environment, and having career development opportunities as factors in determining where they would work.

“If we fail to act on data such as this, the industry will not be able to attract and retain the diverse range of people it requires to refresh its talent pool,” Davies said, emphasizing the need for a new Culture Standard to lift the productivity and performance of construction and secure a productive and sustainable workforce for the future.

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