As the home building boom rolls on, a shortage of skilled tradespeople has emerged across significant parts of the residential construction industry in Australia.

In its latest Trades Report, the Housing Industry Association says Australia is facing a moderate undersupply in respect of nine out of the 13 trades which the report tracks.

Leading the way is bricklaying, where a shortage measuring -0.82 on the Association’s index indicates a shortage of significant proportions (the index scores range from +2 to -2, with anything between 0 and +1 indicating a modest oversupply of the trade in question and anything between 0 and -1 indicating a modest undersupply).

Significant shortages also exist in terms of finishing trades such as ceramic tiling (0.56) and plastering (0.44), whilst shortages are also evident in roofing, other trades (concreting, floor sanding, glazing, pest control, scaffolding, security systems and so on), general building, joinery and painting.

On the flip side, very modest oversupplies are evident across electrical, landscaping, plumbing and site preparation.

Across major states, shortages are evident everywhere except for Perth and Western Australia, with shortages being evident especially in Sydney (-0.50) and regional South Australia (-0.41).

Around Australia, the availability of residential tradespeople has come under pressure amid massive levels of new home building activity in eastern states.

All up, ground broke on a whopping 221,761 houses in the 12 months to March this year – second only to the record 233,412 in the 12 months to March 2016.

Going forward, whilst building approval data has eased a little, the volume of houses and apartments being approved for construction indicates that home building activity remains strong.

In part, this has been met by the training of new apprentices.

Between June 2014 and June 2016, for example, data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research suggests the number of construction trade apprentices in training rose from 43,200 to 50,800.

Nevertheless, this as of yet has not been sufficient to address shortages completely.

The shortages are feeding through into pressure on trade pricing, although the degree of price increases remains modest for now.

All up, trade prices have increased by 2.7 per cent over the past year, with strong increases being evident in other trades and joinery.

Trade prices are rising especially strongly in South Australia, where a shortage of tradespeople has seen prices rise by 27.3 per cent in regional South Australia over the past year and by 8.6 per cent in Adelaide.


  • Andrew, as always you have started a necessary conversation. The challenge will be that the traditional trades as they are currently imagined will have to adapt to the transformation of work packaging that is now reshaping the industry world wide. There is no clear line of sight to the final outcomes but it is already clear that the traditional trades (and professions) will progressively give way to more multi-skilled advanced work packaging. The concepts around advanced work packaging include Lean and the work of the US Construction Industry Institute in this space. Even the Quantity Surveyors see this eventuality gathering momentum with a forecast that trade based bills of quantity are headed for extinction. It is inevitable that more effective pre-construction and construction-delivery will drive these changes as avoidable on-site fabrication gives way to measurably shorter construction durations, less waste, lower injury rates and fewer on-site workers and supervisors. High value add, self directed work teams will respond to projects being organised around their elements such as sub-structure, super-structure etc. These changes will compliment new compliance management requirements that turn around the industry's current trajectory of poor quality and unknown defects being incorporated into future projects. I look forward to your next installment.

  • Shortages of the right people is easy to fix.
    They had the answers thousands of years ago.
    If you have unskilled useless people you use them up in a war to capture skilled people.
    Australia has been good at this, but the USA has been excellent.
    The transfer of six million mostly very skilled people from Iran to the USA will be talked about for the next ten thousand years.
    Billions of dollars added to the economy for year after year. Skilled people breed more skilled people as they come with a culture of learning no matter where they come from.
    Formal Slavery is frowned on because it is wasteful. People have to be looked after for more than twenty years before they become useful. An immigrant is ready and willing to work from day one, and, never challenges the system.

  • I won’t be wrong if I say that hundreds, even thousands of young and skilled tradespeople are graduating every day. They are all looking for work. But I am surprised that there is still a shortage of good professional at famous companies. P

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