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Digitalisation in the Austrian construction industry
Effects on the labour market

A current trend analysis carried out by the Working Life Research Centre (FORBA) investigated what effects on the sectoral labour market in Austria can be expected from the digital transformation in the construction sector. The effects on the labour and employment market for the next five to ten years could be estimated based on literature research, media analyses and interviews with experts from the Austrian construction industry. In recent years, there have been many reports in trade journals about digital applications in the construction sector – from construction site apps and the more efficient exchange of information through building information modelling (BIM) to robotic applications such as drones, 3D printing, etc. In practice, these innovative technologies are being implemented very slowly and gradually, and so far in Austria they have mainly been used in larger pilot projects. Job losses due to the digital transformation are therefore unlikely in the construction sector in the next few years. Many processes in the construction industry are fragmented and are therefore labour-intensive and difficult to automate. In general, the work processes on construction sites are less easy to standardise than in stationary production. The conclusion of the study is that the increasing spread of digital applications in the construction industry is not likely to become a job killer, but also not a job bringer.

The following developments on the labour market are to be expected:
> Stability to slight increase in employment in highly qualified non-manual work of civil engineers, IT specialists, etc.
> Tendency towards less non-manual (office) routine activities for employees
> Stability of employment among skilled workers in construction occupations
> Decrease in employment in semi-skilled and unskilled manual labour in the construction industry

When discussing technological rationalisation potentials, a differentiation must be made between “software” (e.g. BIM, AI) and “hardware” (e.g. 3D printing, robotics) as well as between manual and non-manual work. In the medium term, the quantitatively more relevant potentials lie in the automation of manual activities, especially in standardisability in the context of offsite component prefabrication (supported by computer-based precision). A major challenge for the construction industry in the coming years will remain the frequently expressed shortage of skilled workers, which relates primarily to young and well-trained workers in apprenticeships. Digital applications could be used in this respect in the future to compensate for a lack of skilled workers through increased use of technology. An important economic driver from which the construction industry and ancillary construction trades will benefit in the coming years is climate and environmental protection. The ne-cessary conversion of buildings and infrastructures in the direction of decarbonisation (including the replacement of oil and gas heating systems, thermal renovation, expansion of photovoltaics, etc.) creates great potential for the industry. In addition, an increasing demand for repair work of damage caused by climate-related extreme weather events is to be expected.