This study finds that the availability of labour for housing construction is not a contributor to poor housing affordability in Victoria or Queensland.
This study utilises a mixed methods approach, including a literature review, exploratory interviews with industry stakeholders, quantitative analysis of spatial and temporal aspects of the industry, and focus groups with experienced residential builders.
The study finds that housing sector employment is segmented between the project builders (specializing in volume product) and bespoke building (specializing in one-off houses and alterations and additions). Bespoke building is closely associated with a broad range of tasks and high levels of skill, particularly for carpenters. The other trades working on these jobs tend to have long-term relationships with these builders. By contrast, project building is associated with more specialised tasks, requiring a narrower range of skills. There appears to be little movement of workers between the two different types of building work. There is also a geographic dimension to this segmentation—new build is concentrated in growth areas where there is land supply and population growth, and alterations and additions more concentrated in ageing inner and middle ring suburbs.
Project building workers are mobile and work across larger distances within metropolitan areas as new outer suburban housing estates start up and others wind down. Analysis done for this project indicated some remarkable levels of mobility exhibited by individual building contractors. However on average, distances travelled to jobsites actually reduced over the period 2001–10.
In general the industry works well aligning housing labour supply and housing demand (indicated by population growth) in most regions. There were some ‘critical areas’ where there was a mismatch, with labour shortages most apparent in Queensland. Rockhampton, Calliope, Kingston, Jondaryan and Mundingburra experienced an increase in housing demand that was not accompanied by significant housing sector labour force growth.
Future labour supply could be affected by poor apprenticeship retention due to a lack of appropriate supervision in the workplace, problems with poor and inappropriate training, bullying and abuse in the workplace, and low wages.