'More than welcome': Number of women in construction remains too low

'More than welcome': Number of women in construction remains too low
The number of women in construction is growing, but remains too low, the federation argued. Credit: Belga/ Eric Lalmand

The proportion of women who are active in the construction sector in Belgium is growing, however, the overall number remains too low, Bouwunie, the Flemish federation of SMEs and self-employed in the construction sector, said.

Almost 27,200 women are either workers, employees or self-employed in the construction sector, 4% more than in 2022, the latest figures from the federation showed. However, Bouwunie argued that the proportion of women in the sector — one in ten to be precise — remains much too limited.

"Most people think of construction mainly in terms of the classic professions such as bricklayer or roofer. Very physical professions, which of course are also open to women, but which may not appeal to women as much at first glance," said chair of the Bouwunie, Jean-Pierre Waeytens.

"However, there are so many other jobs in construction. Think project manager, painter-decorator, calculator or manager of your own construction company," he added.

Asset, not hindrance

Waeytens recognised that there are differences between men and women and within the construction sector, the physical distinctions are most often pointed out, but he argued those differences should be seen as an asset in construction.

"Women generally speak less in construction jargon, look beyond the purely technical and have a greater eye for detail," he noted.

He added that, as a sector, construction offers a lot of opportunities for both men and women: workers can earn a good living and there are plenty of opportunities for advancement.

"Moreover, you are sure of your job because construction is always looking for new people, 20,000 a year to be good. Just look at the bottleneck occupations. So women are more than welcome," Waeytens concluded, referring to the labour shortages that have been plaguing the sector in recent months.

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The increase in the number of women in the sector is most striking among the labourers, where the figure has risen from 1,798 last year to 1,909, an increase of 6.2%. However, here, they still only represent 1% of the total number of construction workers.

The number of female employees rose by 4.4%, from 19,218 to 20,068, representing one-third of the total number of employees in the sector. Finally, with an increase of 2.2%, the number of female self-employed workers in Belgium has risen to 5,216, which represents 6.3% of the self-employed in the sector.

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