Home > Issues > Construction sector

Construction sector

The construction industry has direct and often detrimental impacts on human rights, particularly in the areas of workers’ rights, community and land-rights, environmental protection (e.g. dams, large hydro-electric investments) as well as rights to life and health.

The construction industry employs approximately 7% of all workers globally and the volume of construction output is predicted to grow more than 70% to $15 trillion worldwide by 2025. [PwC report: Global construction 2025]. Construction that is sustainable, ethically conducted and based on innovative products and solutions is crucial to achieving Sustainable Development Goals 9   to “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation” and 11 to “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. These goals are particularly important given that by 2050, there will be two billion additional city dwellers. Since it relies on large numbers of low-skilled workers, it is a major provider of formal employment opportunities around the world and could play an important role in ensuring that workers’ rights are respected. This is crucial, as emerging markets account for approximately 52% of all construction activity today. [PwC report: Global construction 2025].

However, workers’ abuse, environmental damage, displacement of local communities caused by large-scale construction projects, such as those involving infrastructure development, and in some cases the threat to human life as a result of poorly constructed buildings are regularly reported. The risks and complexities inherent in  the construction sector, such as, high competition, tight fixed deadlines, low profit margins (about 2%), and heavy reliance on multiple-layered sub-contracting make it a high-risk sector in terms of human rights (IHRB, June 2016). It is also often under-regulated by local governments and It is also recognised as a high-risk sector for corruption. Moreover, as a labour-intensive sector where temporary and irregular work is common, as well as low-skilled and low-waged jobs, it is a high-risk sector for forced labour. According to the ILO, Walk Free Foundation and International Organization for Migration (IOM), 18percent of all adults in forced-labour situations are in the construction industry (Global Estimates of Global Slavery, September 2017).

+ Read more


What National Action Plans say on Construction sector