The construction sector is one of the largest in the world economy, with about $10 trillion spent on construction-related goods and services every year. However, the industry’s productivity has trailed that of other sectors for decades, and there is a $1.6 trillion opportunity to close the gap.
Globally, construction sector labor-productivity growth averaged 1 percent a year over the past two decades, compared with 2.8 percent for the total world economy and 3.6 percent for manufacturing. In a sample of countries analyzed, less than 25 percent of construction firms matched the productivity growth achieved in the overall economies where they work over the past decade. Absent change, global need for infrastructure and housing will be hard to meet. If construction productivity were to catch up with the total economy, the industry’s value added could rise by $1.6 trillion a year. That would meet about half of the world’s annual infrastructure needs or boost global GDP by 2 percent. Onethird of the opportunity is in the United States, where, since 1945, productivity in manufacturing, retail, and agriculture has grown by as much as 1,500 percent, but productivity in construction has barely increased at all.