‘Doing the time’ not an option for next-gen construction workers

Media Release – April 2024

Young people are deterred from joining the construction industry because they don’t
believe the working hours can deliver them work/life balance, according to a new report
released today by the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce (CICT).

The report, led by RMIT University, tracks the experiences of 136 NSW trainees who
spent two years in the infrastructure construction industry while completing a TAFE

The trainees aged between 17 and 23 – both male and female – observed the long
hours worked in construction and most said they didn’t believe it was an industry they
would choose to work in.

The report shows that 79% of the participants are looking for a job with hours that allow
them time for non-work roles and interests, with a low 31% believing they could
combine a career in infrastructure with family and social commitments.

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 of time.

“This study, Intention to Pursue a Career in Construction/Infrastructure, demonstrates
the gap between what trainees want in a career and what they think the industry has to
offer,” RMIT Distinguished Professor Helen Lingard, co-author of the study, said today.

According to Gabrielle Trainor AO, Chair of the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce
and Chair of Infrastructure Australia, the findings are especially concerning given the
acute shortage of workers available to deliver on the nation’s $237 billion infrastructure

“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.

“While it was affirming to hear trainees say they loved working towards a common goal
in a team environment, and that they gained great satisfaction from seeing projects
come to life, one deterrent came up time and again: the long working hours,” she said.

“Construction is in so many ways 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, we would be significantly more likely to attract young
people, notably young women.”

CICT research shows 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. (https://www.constructionindustryculturetaskforce.com.au/cict-newsletter-december-2023/)

“And we were not surprised to see the NSW Building Commission recently reported that
63% of construction workers surveyed are considering leaving and cited the difficulty in
achieving work/life balance as the main reason,” Ms Trainor said.

Working hours wasn’t the only factor identified during the research, according to Jon
Davies, CEO of the Australian Constructors’ Association (ACA).

“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,” he said.

“The feedback from the next generation shows us exactly why a new Culture Standard
is needed to lift the productivity and performance of construction and secure a
productive and sustainable workforce for the future,” Mr Davies said.

– ENDS –

Available for interview:

  • Gabrielle Trainor AO, Chair, Construction Industry Culture Taskforce (CICT)
  • Jon Davies, CEO, Australian Constructors Association (ACA)

For further information please contact:
Biarta Parnham
E: [email protected]
M: 0438 337 408

About the CICT

The Construction Industry Culture Taskforce (CICT) is a collaboration between the ACA
and the Victorian and NSW Governments. These funding partners have invited further
representatives from the Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure, Infrastructure
South Australia, Infrastructure Australia and a team of leading academics and industry

The CICT has developed a Culture Standard designed to be included in the
procurement of infrastructure projects. The Standard covers three interrelated areas –
working hours, diversity and health and wellbeing – and would be required to be met by
successful bidders on government projects. The Taskforce has worked with the major
construction unions on five projects that are piloting the standard.

To find out more, visit: constructionindustryculturetaskforce.com.au

Key facts & figures:

Following completion of the trainees’ first rotation, 34% of trainees indicated they
would like to pursue a career in infrastructure construction, while 64% were

After trainees had completed their second rotation, the job characteristics
identified as being very important reflected the three pillars of the Culture

  • 74% of trainees listed respectful workplace relationships and an
    inclusive, gender-diverse and fair work environment as a factor in
    determining where they would work in future, yet only 35% of respondents
    felt the infrastructure construction industry offered them this type of
  • 79% of the study’s participants are seeking a job with hours that align
    with their non-work roles and interests, with a low 31% of respondents
    believing that a career in infrastructure construction offers hours that don’t
    interfere with their family and social commitments.
  • 26% of trainees said they believed a career in infrastructure construction
    could be combined with parenthood, while just 30% believe a job in the
    industry gives them some control over their work time or would not take
    them away from family for long durations.