Tradies are anxious about fuel costs, underpayment and job security, report finds

tradies

Newcastle tradie Brayden Lane says workers are feeling isolated from friends and family. Source: supplied.

Tradies are anxious about fuel costs, underpayment and job security, and need better tech to work smarter — but overall most feel upbeat about the second half of 2022, according to Optus Business’ State of Tradies survey.

YouGov spoke to 513 tradies across Australia, finding nine in 10 have a sense of optimism about their work, citing fewer COVID-19 challenges delaying their return to work, and overall increased job satisfaction.

But nearly two-thirds (59%) are worried about the rising cost of fuel, and two in five (41%) say they’re not being paid enough, while a quarter cited job insecurity and travel over long distances as major challenges.

Concerningly the report also found two-thirds of construction workers are doing it tough mentally, with long working hours and work/life balance taking a mental and emotional toll.

Two in five surveyed say they spend 10 hours or less with family and friends a week.

Co-owner of Lanewoods Roofing in Newcastle, NSW, Brayden Lane says many in the construction industry — which employs more than 625,000 people across Australia — are feeling isolated.

“Workers in the construction industry are under pressure, with many struggling to stay connected to their community or simply struggling to have some downtime after work,” he said.

“What most of us need is to have extra time to focus on ourselves, do what we love and spend quality time with friends and family.”

Better connectivity needed

Of those surveyed, 91% said better mobile connectivity is a high priority, with three out of four tradies saying better apps and phone software for business transactions, portable office solutions and digital payment solutions would help them save time on the job as they move from site to site.

“Being able to access reliable connectivity and innovative technology solutions means we can ultimately be more efficient at work, so that we can spend more time connecting with our community,” Lane said.

It comes in the wake of the federal budget for 2022-23, which confirmed economic and digital technologies support for small businesses, and the Coalition’s $5 million digital skills passport proposal, which would allow workers to display their university, VET and private sector qualifications in one place.

It also follows Labor’s pledge to provide free TAFE for Australians studying in an industry with a skills shortage, and a promise to invest $100 million to support 10,000 new energy apprenticeships if elected later this month (like rooftop solar, green hydrogen, renewable manufacturing, and more).

‘Many continue to struggle’

Optus managing director of business Libby Roy says it’s promising to see most are upbeat, despite two years of “lockdowns and natural disasters”, along with the pressure placed on the short-staffed and short-supplied construction industry by 2020’s HomeBuilder scheme.

“However, we can’t ignore the fact that many tradies and small business owners continue to struggle,” she continues.

“Priority should be put on helping tradies and business owners balance their work and personal lives, as well as navigate the current economic situation that has created unique challenges.”

Last week, the NSW Coalition government confirmed it was considering extending construction hours to seven days of the week in the state in a bid to ease supply chain and staff shortage pressures.

NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts revealed the construction hours were under review to a room full of developers at the Property Council lunch, but critics say it could mean tradies spend less time with family and friends, potentially exacerbating the mental health struggles plaguing the industry.

Engineers Australia found more than 20% of workers in the construction industry have had a mental health condition, while a report from MATES in Construction and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found trades workers are more than twice as likely to suicide as other people in Australia.

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