Workplace stress among construction professionals in South Africa

Paul Bowen (Department of Construction Economics and Management, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa)
Peter Edwards (School of Property, Project and Construction Management, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Helen Lingard (School of Property, Project and Construction Management, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Publication date: 11 November 2013



The discrimination/harassment experiences of survey respondents in different construction professional groups in South Africa is compared, and the relationship between harassment/discrimination and perceived work stress is examined.


An online survey was administered and 626 responses (ca. 6.5 per cent of target population) received. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyse the response data.


Harassment and discrimination on ethnic grounds are experienced in all of the South African construction professions included in the survey. Respondents also indicated that they felt underpaid and that their job security was adversely affected by their ethnicity. Sexual harassment and gender-based harassment and discrimination were more frequently reported by architects than by other professionals. Harassment and discrimination were found to correlate with higher perceived levels of work stress.

Research limitations/implications

Harassment and discrimination, on ethnic and on gender-based grounds, constitute a significant stressor for many construction professionals in South Africa, particularly among architects.

Practical implications

Strategies designed to address and counter harassment/discrimination in the South African construction industry should be implemented or reinforced as part of broader stress management programmes. Employers have a major role to play in this, but unions and professional associations should also take part.

Originality value

Previous research into work stress has focused on the experiences of workers in developed countries. The paper provides insight into the problem of harassment and discrimination in the unique situation of post-apartheid South Africa. It supports the link between harassment and discrimination and perceived levels of personal stress in this context.



Bowen, P., Edwards, P. and Lingard, H. (2013), "Workplace stress among construction professionals in South Africa ", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 20 No. 6, pp. 620-635.

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