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Reduced fees and falling salaries: Welcome to the ‘new economy’

State of the Profession Survey shows architects have little faith in government initiatives and place most confidence in overseas job markets

More than a third of the profession has abandoned hopes of an economic recovery as wage cuts and reduced fees continue to ravage the marketplace.

After four years of economic downturn, 36 per cent of architects now believe these negative trends are here to stay, agreeing with the statement ‘this is the new economy’. The first results from the AJ’s State of the Profession Survey indicate a major departure from 2009, when 40 per cent of architects thought the economy would be booming again within a year. 

Faith in the government has also taken a blow, with 38 per cent of architects lacking confidence in official efforts to fight the downturn, compared with just a quarter in 2009. However, 5 per cent thought policies were now working, compared with none previously.

While staff redundancies, reduced working hours and falling workloads have eased in the past four years, pay cuts and rock-bottom fees have emerged as the new trends besieging modern practice.

Close to a third of architect survey respondents had their pay cut in 2012, compared with 20 per cent four years ago. A further quarter thought reduced salaries were on the horizon, compared with 14 per cent at the start of the downturn. 

A shocking 65 per cent admitted their practice dropped fees, with 20 per cent reporting a ‘significant’ reduction. Just over 40 per cent lowered fees in 2009, with only 7 per cent risking major discounts.

Most respondents thought workloads would either remain stable (35 per cent) or increase slightly (40 per cent) over the coming 12 months, with only 20 per cent feeling pessimistic about workload in the future and 5 per cent very optimistic.

Redundancies were also slightly down, with 46 per cent declaring job cuts in the past 12 months, compared with half of practices in 2009.

The residential sector was identified by 42 per cent of architects as the most encouraging sector over the next 12 months, followed by commercial (19 per cent) and infrastructure (11 per cent). A majority, 60 per cent, believed China offered most job potential for architects, followed by Brazil (36 per cent) and Abu Dhabi (31 per cent).

Nearly 400 people completed the survey, of whom 67 per cent were male. Half of the respondents were London-based.

 

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