A ROUTE TO HIGHER PRODUCTIVITY
IN COLLABORATION WITH MCKINSEY’S CAPITAL PROJECTS & INFRASTRUCTURE PRACTICE
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.
The new MGI Construction Productivity Survey confirms many reasons for this poor performance.
The industry is extensively regulated, very dependent on public-sector demand, and highly cyclical.
Informality and sometimes corruption distort the market. Construction is highly fragmented. Contracts
have mismatches in risk allocations and rewards, and often inexperienced owners and buyers find
it hard to navigate an opaque marketplace. The result is poor project management and execution,
insufficient skills, inadequate design processes, and underinvestment in skills development, R&D,
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