Overview of the Construction Industry in Australia
The construction industry is a major source of economic activity in Australia. As a multibillion-dollar sector, construction has generated $360 billion in revenue and comprises 9% of the country’s gross domestic product, as of January 2020.
It is the third-largest industry in Australia (after healthcare and retail) based on the number of people in its employ and its contribution to GDP. Although subject to cyclical changes in demand, the construction industry is poised for growth. Along with this, employment and economic opportunities are set to increase within this sector, as well.
Construction industry subsectors
The construction industry is massive and highly specialised, being subdivided into four broad subsectors:
- Residential: The residential subsector is primarily involved with the construction, renovation, repair and maintenance of residential buildings. These include apartment complexes, houses, duplexes, townhouses, condominiums, and other similar structures.
- Commercial or non-residential: In general terms, the commercial building subsector encompasses the construction of buildings with the potential of generating profit. These include office buildings, schools and university campuses, hospital and other healthcare buildings, retail shops and museums.
- Infrastructure: The infrastructure sector is responsible for the construction of the basic or major physical systems of a business or country, such as transportation, communication, sewage, water, and electrical systems. Major infrastructure are typically high-cost investments, which are critical to economic development and prosperity. These typically include roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, and other types of public works.
- Industrial: The industrial construction subsector includes the country’s most complex facilities and structures, which are used mainly for economic activities. These include power plants, chemical plants, warehouses, factories and refineries used for the production of goods, transformation of raw materials and the exploitation of mineral resources.
The construction industry as a major employer
The construction industry generates jobs for large numbers of people. More than 1.15 million people worked in construction in 2019, which is equivalent to about 9% of all the jobs in Australia. The number of people employed in construction is expected to increase by an additional 118,800 jobs by 2023. This projection is equivalent to a 10% increase in construction industry employment.
According to the Hays Jobs Report, Australia’s most in-demand construction positions include those for contract administrators (civil and commercial), estimators (commercial), site managers (civil and commercial), project managers (civil) and project engineers (civil).
The same is reflected in the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) research on the top 5 in-demand construction occupations: contract, program and project administrators, civil engineering professionals, architectural, building and surveying technicians, carpenters and joiners, and electricians.
As the construction sector is poised to grow further, suppliers to the construction industry will continue to benefit and more people are expected to be employed in the construction sector in the coming years.
Top Australian construction companies
The Australian construction industry continues to be a robust player in the national economy in spite of the seasonal ebb and flow of supply and demand. The vitality of the construction sector requires the participation of key industry players that continue to bid, build and employ construction professionals and workers.
Some of the leading construction companies in Australia include the following top 5 establishments:
CPB Contractors Pty Ltd
The Construction, Infrastructure, Mining and Concessions (CIMIC) Group was formerly known as Leighton Holdings and is now called CPB Contractors Pty Ltd. They employ 23,000 people across Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Asia. During the 2015-2016 period, CPB Contractors Pty Ltd was awarded non-residential construction contracts in Australia valued at $13.59 billion. Some of their iconic projects include Sydney’s Northern Beach Hospital for Healthscope Ltd, and the New Royal Adelaide Hospital, reputed to be the biggest infrastructure project in South Australia.
The Lendlease Group is an international property and infrastructure group, with operations in Australia, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Founded in Sydney in 1958 by Dick Dusseldorf, a Dutch immigrant, Lendlease today employs 12,000 people around the world, including in the United States. Lendlease counts the Elephant & Castle in London, Victoria Harbour in Melbourne and Riverline in Chicago among its major regeneration projects. Lendlease received non-residential Australian contracts worth $6.57 billion in 2015-2016.
Laing O’Rourke is an international privately-owned engineering enterprise that encompasses engineering, construction and asset management. Founded in 1848 by John Laing, the company gained prominence in 1919 by building housing for WWI veterans. The company also built the world’s first commercial-grade electricity-generating nuclear power station in 1956. Concrete specialist R O’Rourke and Son was founded in 1978 and expanded into international construction and engineering. The company worked on the Canary Wharf development of London in 1990 and constructed the Citigroup building, among others. It was in 2001 that the two companies combined and worked on the London Olympic and Paralympic park in 2012. The company currently employs 15,234 people and was awarded non-residential contracts in Australia worth $5.3 billion in 2015-2016.
The Hutchinson Builders, sometimes casually referred to as “Hutchies”, is Australia’s largest privately-owned construction company. It was established in 1912. Hutchies currently employs 1,500 people. On average, the company works on 250 projects per year with a total value of approximately $22 million. The company received non-residential contracts in Australia valued at $3.26 billion in the 2015-2016 period. Hutchies was also chosen to build the Global Switch’s Sydney East Data Centre (stages 2 and 3) upon completion.
Established in 1987, ProBuild now employs more than 1,300 people. The company provides end-to-end service across project delivery, construction planning and management. During the 2015-2016 period, ProBuild was awarded $2.38 billion worth of projects. ProBuild projects include Sydney’s tallest ever residential tower and the 20-kilometre expansion of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre at South Wharf, Victoria.
Despite the slowdown in construction activity in 2019, the construction industry is expected to perform better this year with more transport infrastructure investments scheduled to be done until 2025, plus increasing consumer and investor confidence in commercial and industrial building projects.