The construction industry is a major source of employment in Europe and includes a wide range of different occupations. Consequently, the requirements and the wages of the different jobs vary. Yet even the same jobs are not always paid equally. There are huge differences between national wage levels within the construction industry in Europe. It may well be that a skilled worker in the same job at his place of work earns many times more than he would earn in his home country.
In this article, we examine the average salaries of different construction jobs and the wage levels in ten different European countries.
Latest figures on the European construction industry
According to the Deloitte industry portal and the new Deloitte Global Powers of Construction (GPoC) report, Europe is by far one of the real winners of the upswing in the construction industry. Compared to the previous year, Europe recorded above-average growth. With a total turnover of around 1.819 MN US dollars, the 100 largest construction companies listed on the stock exchange generated a growth plus of 14.1 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year.
Despite the current difficulties in politics and the economy, the construction industry is still one of the most important sectors of the European economy. Thus, it continues to account for a considerable share of the gross domestic products. If the total size of the construction industry in 2021 was 7.28 trillion US dollars, Deloitte estimates that it will grow to 14.41 trillion US dollars by 2023.
Crises and consequences overshadow the growth of the construction industry in Europe
Since the end of February 2022, a new issue has been acutely influencing the economy and private households in the form of the war in Ukraine. As a result, the war-related consequences for Europeans have effectively overshadowed the previous consequences of the pandemic. Supply chains that have existed up to now have been interrupted for an indefinite period of time, the shortage of raw materials and skilled labour are also putting pressure on the industry. Last but not least, the energy crisis with procurement problems on the one hand and previously unforeseeable costs for employers on the other contribute to the uncertainty among employers and employees.
Both the pandemic since 2020 and the war in Europe since Q1, 2022 are causing persistent shortages as far as the availability of labour and raw materials is concerned. For years, the direct consequence has been the delay of previously started and new project implementations. Tenders and the awarding of new construction projects are also subject to the current global uncertainties, further influencing factors are the negative economic trends.
Therefore, it is all the more important to know that the importance of the construction industry remains high in the UK and the majority of European countries. Construction companies that have geared their focus to the domestic and international contract market are particularly affected. Despite the aforementioned difficulties, according to data collected by Deloitte.com, the top 30 construction companies recorded approximately 15 per cent of their total turnover outside their location. As a result, revenue from this contracting segment declined by 2 per cent compared to 2020 and by 4 per cent compared to 2019. This was exacerbated by the fact that travel by construction managers or architects was not readily available. Similarly, secondments of skilled workers were made more difficult.
Decently paid construction professions in Europe
Jobs with responsibility and an academic educational background are among the best paid construction careers in Europe. The best paid construction occupations include architects and construction project managers. In the upper middle range are civil engineer and construction manager, followed by construction technician, structural engineer and construction supervisor. Depending on the country of the employer, the ranking of the best-paid jobs in construction can change significantly.
Best paid construction professions in Europe
Wage levels in Europe vary greatly from country to country. Although the salaries paid on European construction sites vary, there are construction jobs that tend to be better paid than others. Below, we examine which construction jobs are among the best paid in many countries.
When you work as a civil engineer, you will not only draw up designs, but also plans that will be executed according to your specific plans. A civil engineer can be employed to build residential buildings, commercial buildings or other structures. The planning is done on the foundation of static calculations of the installed components. Their responsibility extends to structural design. The salary of a civil engineer is among the top 3 in many European countries.
Construction supervisors are employed on projects that are highly complex or where there are local or functional peculiarities to be taken into account. The salary in construction supervision is in the top half of the salary distribution in all countries surveyed.
The construction project manager or site manager takes over parts of the tasks of the construction engineer. In addition, there are the tasks of monitoring the implementation of the construction project, acceptance and follow-up. The core tasks include the coordination and delegation of the involved professionals, as well as the communication between the management level, the client and the workforce. In countries like Germany or Spain, construction management is one of the best-paid construction jobs.
In the position of construction technician, you can specialize in different areas during your training in most countries. Construction technicians therefore work as technicians in finishing technology in dry construction, building construction and civil engineering.
As a construction worker, you have most likely completed vocational training in the construction industry. Higher education is not required to do the job in the countries we analysed.
To become an architect, a university degree or technical college degree is required. Architects in Europe are among the highest-paid professionals in the construction industry in many countries. It is the profession where experience growth is reflected most quickly in salary.
The structural engineer’s task is to plan the building project or to plan externally prepared building plans regarding the statics of the structure. Among other things, they check the load on the individual components, and after they have been installed. The range of structural engineer salaries in Europe is between 20,400 euros in Romania and 83,000 euros in Switzerland. The actual salary also depends on the employer, their reputation and on the construction project.
As a crane operator, you will work on a wide variety of construction sites. Once you have obtained your crane operator’s licence, you may already be able to apply for a job with a European company, although there may be additional requirements depending on which country you choose to work in. As with other construction professions, the more experience you have, the higher your annual salary will be.
As a property manager, you can expect an above-average salary in many European countries. The more experience you have, the more likely your salary will be in the upper quarter of the salary distribution. Property managers earn particularly high salaries in Ireland and Switzerland.
Construction salaries in Europe in comparison
We have taken a closer look at gross salaries in Europe in general. Salaries may vary depending on the final employer, the location of the company, the proven experience in the field of work or similar fields and the place of employment. When assessing the income, the taxation of the country and the prevailing cost of living there must also be considered.
In the UK, most construction jobs pay the equivalent of around 25,000 to just under 50,000 euros a year. This puts the salary prospects in the United Kingdom in the upper range, but not in first place. The job of architects in the UK, as in many other European countries, is one of the best-paid jobs in the construction industry.
Wages paid on German construction sites are among the highest in Europe, second only to Switzerland. Construction managers, construction project managers and architects have particularly good wage prospects in Germany. However, it should be borne in mind that taxes in Germany are also quite high. With an average annual salary of 60,000 euros, the job of construction manager is the best-paid construction job in Germany. As one of the few European countries, the job of architect in Germany is not the job with the highest annual average wage in construction.
The level of the average salary in Austria is slightly lower than in Germany, but still quite high in European comparison. Austria has a vibrant construction industry and is home to several international construction groups. Architects, structural engineers and construction managers earn particularly high salaries in Austria. With an average annual salary of 58,300 euros, architects in Austria have the best salary prospects and earn on average over 3,000 euros more per year than their German colleagues.
Wages paid in Switzerland are among the highest in the world. The construction industry is no exception and lures skilled workers with the equivalent of 32,700 to 100,000 euros a year. For example, an ordinary construction worker in Switzerland earns on average about 2.5 times as much as a construction manager in Romania. The best-paid construction jobs in Switzerland include construction project manager, construction engineer and construction manager.
France is another economically important country in Europe with a bustling construction industry. Compared to many other European countries, the French construction industry pays strong wages. Most salaries are around the level of Austria or Germany. The wages of the construction technician, the civil engineer and the structural engineer stand out. After Switzerland, they are the highest in Europe with average wages of 53,700 euros, 53,000 euros and 52,000 euros respectively.
Italy’s construction industry offers exciting career options for skilled workers. Particularly high wages are paid in construction project management. With an average of around 55,000 euros per year, construction project managers in Italy earn more than their colleagues in the UK, Austria or France. Otherwise, however, the wage level on Italian construction sites is below that of its northern and north-western neighbours.
The wages paid in construction jobs in Spain are comparable to wages for construction jobs in Italy. With an average of 40,000 to 45,000 euros per month, construction project managers, construction managers, construction technicians and architects have particularly good wage prospects. However, with a minimum wage of just over 6 euros, the wage level in Spain is lower than in many other EU countries.
The wage gap between Germany and its eastern neighbour, Poland, is steep. Poland has a minimum wage of the equivalent of about 3.8 euros an hour and annual salaries averaging 12,000 euros to 34,400 euros. This puts the wages paid on Polish construction sites clearly in the lower half in a European comparison.
Romania ranks last in terms of wages in the construction sector in the European countries we surveyed. The average annual salary in various jobs in the Romanian construction industry ranges from 8,800 to 20,400 euros per month and is the lowest among the 10 countries studied in every occupational field. Structural engineers and architects have the best salary prospects in Romania.
Ireland’s economy has largely recovered from its crisis and now ranks among the strongest economies in Europe. This means that the construction industry is also going strong, which results in high wages. At 61,800 euros per year, property managers in Ireland are among the best paid in Europe. Architects also earn above-average wages at 58,000 euros.
Detailed table of average salaries
In the table below, you can see the average annual salaries in 2022, next to the professions, depending on the country. All amounts are averages and in euros.
In the table below, you can see the average annual salaries in 2022, next to the professions, depending on the country. All amounts are averages and in euros.
Table: Salaries in Europe 2022 in comparison;
Sources: salaryexpert.com, lohnanalyse.ch, stepstone.de, connexion-emploi.com, de, lohnanalyse.de, glassdoor.de, paylab.com, bdex-de.com;
All figures are in euros, 2022
Does minimum wage affect wages in European construction?
Whether it is construction workers or architects who are affected by wage issues, every employee in the construction industry wants to be paid according to their training, skills and experience. Therefore, it is worth taking a look at the issue of minimum wage. After all, an existing minimum wage and its amount can already give a first impression. The higher the value of the minimum wage in the respective country, the higher the national wage level usually is. However, this does not always necessarily have to be the case, as the example of Switzerland shows. The Swiss Confederation has no minimum wage and yet has a wage level that is among the highest in the world.
Great Britain, on the other hand, is one of the European countries that have set a legal minimum wage in the hope of better protecting their workers from wage dumping. Currently, the minimum wage per hour in the UK is the equivalent of around 11 euros. This makes the minimum wage similar to that in Germany. Compared to other European countries, France and Ireland have similar minimum wage rates per hour. The UK has been working on the issue longer than Germany.
The highest paying jobs in construction in 2023: Conclusion
The years-long pandemic, the energy and supply crisis and the shortage of skilled workers are causing the construction industry to go through times. But once more, it is becoming apparent that new difficulties can be the ground for new solutions and improvements. According to forecasts, the construction industry will be able to grow out of the global crisis in 2023, above all with large projects. Those who already work in the construction industry, are doing an apprenticeship or are looking to retrain, are dealing with a sector that continues to look to the future.
It is not only the United Kingdom that has been focusing on expanding the housing market for years. Germany and other countries in Europe are also getting in on the act, finding ways and means to turn construction projects that have begun and those that are to come into reality. If you want to work and live in the UK temporarily or permanently, you have excellent prospects with a job in the construction industry. The more experience you have, the better. This also applies to other economically developed countries in Europe. In addition to experience, wages are determined by your type of education, additional qualifications, CV and career vision.
However, countries in Southern and Eastern Europe also offer exciting job opportunities for local workers and expats. Although local wage levels are lower than in Western or Central Europe, there are always exceptions. Large construction companies in particular are regularly on the lookout for well-qualified expats and locals in management positions for large projects in Eastern and Southern Europe, and pay above-average salaries.
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