In 2019, Western European construction recorded output of USD4,588 billion despite a slight slowdown in major economies. The COVID-19 crisis in 2020 and related uncertainty led to residential and commercial construction contracting. Rising infrastructure spending as part of corona-recovery packages is set to compensate only partially for the decline in construction over 2019-2024. SMEs will continue to dominate the construction sector despite the financial challenges arising from the pandemic.
Western Europe saw slow growth in the latter part of the review period, dragged down by slower economic growth across major EU countries, foremost Germany and the UK. The UK has seen shrinking commercial construction since the Brexit referendum in 2016, and continues facing diminishing construction demand in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn. Residential and commercial construction are set to see weak demand over 2019-2024, given elevated uncertainty, low consumer and businesses confidence, and rising unemployment.
In the context of deteriorating residential and commercial construction demand across the region, rising infrastructure spending is expected to provide some support for the construction industry. As part of corona-recovery packages, Western European countries are planning major investment in infrastructure developments, alongside some regulatory adjustment allowing for quicker and more flexible infrastructure planning systems. Additionally, the lion’s share of the EUR750 billion EU corona recovery package is set to support infrastructure development.
The Western European construction sector is largely dominated by small and micro companies, generating as much as 70% of total output in Germany, Italy and France. The COVID-19 crisis has, however, hit these companies significantly, as construction sites were closed, and others lacked workforce to complete projects on time, thus delaying payment. SMEs are expected to be supported by government financial incentive programmes to avoid insolvency issues; nevertheless, problems will continue as recession limits potential revenue growth, and disrupted supply chains will remain a challenge for small companies.
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