July 15, 2024

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The European construction industry in 4 charts

New figures that show the state of play in Europe’s construction industry have been released.

The latest European Construction Industry Federation’s (FIEC) Statistical Report gathers together information about the sector in the region and by individual country.

It comes at a tough time for European construction, with housebuilding alone expected to decline by 5.7% in 2024, after a 2.6% fall the year before.

Construction Briefing has broken the extensive report down into just four charts to give a flavour of how European construction is performing.

The report found that investment in construction as a whole declined by 2.2% in 2023 to €1,683 billion, with the outlook for all segments but civil engineering negative (see chart below).

But it also illustrates the sector’s importance, employing 12 million people across three million businesses that together account for 10.9% of the European Union’s GDP.

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‘Bleak picture’

FIEC described the situation facing the industry as “bleak” across most member states. Bulgaria saw the biggest decline in construction investment in 2023, with a drop of -9.8%, while major economies like Sweden (-5.6%) are also affected, largely due to the housebuilding crisis there.

But there were also bright spots of growth in 2023, including Greece (+21.2%), which is implementing projects under its Recovery and Resilience Plan. There was also strong growth in Czech Republic (+8.2%) and Lithuania (+11.9%).

In the larger economies of Italy and France, projections suggested that there would be declines in investment of -7.4% and -4.5% respectively. Germany is expected to grow by 2.7%, while some outliers like Bulgaria are expected to experience strong growth (+19.6%).

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Employment

Total employment in construction in the European Union in 2023 was 12.4 million people, which represented a 1.2% increase on the previous year.

Europe’s biggest construction employer is Germany, with more than 2.6 million people working in the sector. That was followed by France with nearly 2 million and Italy with 1.8 million.

The sector is made up largely of small businesses, with 95% of enterprises having less than 20 workers in the EU 27, according to the report.

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Segments’ share of the pie

Non-residential construction represented the biggest segment of the sector, accounting for 31.8% but FIEC reported that growth is sluggish at 1.5% in 2023 and forecast to be +0.3% in 2024 across Europe as a whole.

The next biggest is rehabilitation and maintenance, which FIEC said has been the least volatile segment over the past decade and a potential substantial driver for growth as the renovation of buildings is central to European and national climate policies.

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Housebuilding accounted for 19.9% and is a sector that has been in crisis, with new housebuilding falling by 6.2% in 2023 and a forecast 8.6% in 2024. Sweden is the country hardest hit, with a 37.2% drop in residential construction last year. Denmark and France fell -13.8% and -8% respectively but Italy and Spain saw modest growth of 1.3% and 2.1% respectively in 2023.

Finally, civil engineering is the smallest segment of construction at 17.9% but has proven resilient in Europe as a whole, with 3.8% growth in 2023, with 4% growth forecast in 2024.

To read the full 67th Edition of the FIEC Statistical Release, click here.

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