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Lack of work from abroad is taking its toll on UK architects

According to the latest monthly survey by the Royal Institute of British Architects some 32% of architects are under employed. Some 31% of firms are expecting to axe jobs but the rest hope to maintain current staffing levels.

The figures are a slight improvement on the February survey, when 35% said they expected to cut staff, and just 62% said they could keep staff numbers at current levels.

But a major factor affecting the industry is a decline in work from abroad. Of those questioned some 32% said they were personally under employed, up from 21% in January. In general 44% said they expected workloads would continue to decline, compared to just 13% who said workloads would increase.

Adrian Dobson, director of practice said the Future Trends survey, also revealed a worrying decline in the proportion of work coming from projects based overseas, falling from 9% in January 2009 to 5% in March 2009, a decline which could threaten the capability of the UK architects' profession to play its part in this vital export sector.

'Since the survey began there has been a steady increase in the number of individual respondents indicating that lack of work has lead to them personally being under employed,' he explained.

'Large practices are currently the most pessimistic, indicating that further staffing reductions are regrettably likely to occur in the large practice sector in the coming quarter,' he added.

One example is Foster & Partners, one of the biggest firms in the UK, which is laying off 300 staff worldwide and has seen a number of its foreign projects put on hold or cancelled. These include the £600 million Russia Tower in Moscow which was cancelled last year, a skyscraper on the site of the World Trade Center in New York which has been delayed, Dublin's £162 million U2 Tower and the £78 million River Tower in Vietnam.