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Construction trade skills shortage, current and historical


Master Builders Australia’s Senior Adviser Industry Policy Jennifer Lawrence gives us a window into building and construction trade skills shortages

Current skills shortages

The latest information on indicative skills shortages from the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Businesses (Ratings Summary – Labour Market Analysis of Skills Occupations, published September 2019) shows construction trade shortages by state (metro and regional).

State-level information on indicative skills shortages is available for bricklaying, carpentry, painting, plastering, plumbing and electrical trades. However, the information available does not reveal the extent of skills shortages. State specific data is not available for stonemasonry, glazing or tiling; although at the national level all three are experiencing skills shortages.

For the six construction trades with data the available, the data shows:

  • NSW, Tas and the ACT are experiencing skills shortages in the six trades.
  • Vic and SA have shortages in most trades (excluding painting in Vic and plumbing in SA).
  • Qld has a shortage of plumbers in the regions and bricklayers in all areas.
  • WA has no identified shortages and the NT only has a shortage of plumbers.
Table 1: States Territories experiencing skills shortages by occupation
Occupation States Territories with shortages States Territories without shortages Unknown
Bricklaying NSW, VIC, SA, Qld, ACT, TAS WA NT
Carpentry NSW, VIC, TAS, SA, ACT QLD, NT, WA  
Painting NSW, TAS, ACT, SA NT, VIC, WA, QLD  
Plastering  NSW, Tas, ACT, Vic (metro), SA    Qld, WA, NT
Plumbing NSW, Tas, ACT, Vic,Qld (regional), NT SA, WA  
Electrician NSW, Tas, ACT, SA (metro), NT Vic, Qld, WA  

Historical skills shortages

Indicative data on historical skills shortages at the national level dates back to 1986. The table below indicates how many of the last 5, 10 and 20 years construction trades experienced skills shortages.

Table 2: National skills shortages by occupation and time (current and of the last 5, 10 and 20 years)
Occupation Shortage in 2018-19

5 years

10 years

20 years

Bricklayer Yes  5 6 14
Stonemason Yes 5 9 13
Carpenters & joiners Yes 2 2 9
Floor finisher Unknown 0 1 5
Painting trades worker No 3 3 6
Glazier Yes 4 6 10
Fibrous plasterer Yes 4 4 11
Solid plasterer Unknown 3 4 12
Roof tiler Unknown 4 8 12
Wall & floor tiler Yes 5 5 9
Plumbers Yes 2 4 11
Electriction (general) Yes 1 2 9


In 2019, there were 1,169,200 people in the Australian construction industry. It is projected that this will increase to 1,282,800 by 2024, an increase of 113,700 people or 9.7 per cent.

The construction workforce is anticipated to increase in all states and territories over the five years to 2024. Growth will be stronger in capital cities than regional areas, with the exception of WA where regional areas are tipped to grow more quickly than Perth. In the NT, Darwin is anticipated to have growth, however, the workforce in regional NT will contract.


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