Clarke is the first Briton to be appointed to Skanska's senior team and will have overall responsibility for Skanska's businesses in the UK, Poland and the Czech Republic.
Skanska's global chief executive Claes Björk, who heads the six-strong senior executive team, said: "[Clarke] has established a strong and profitable business in the UK, which has fitted well into the Skanska Group, and I am sure he will bring new ideas and strengths."
David Fison, who is currently responsible for developing Skanska's global mining and natural gas businesses, has replaced Clarke as UK chief executive.
Fison previously headed up Skanska's main contracting business, having joined Skanska UK in 1998 from Balfour Beatty.
He will report to Clarke and will retain responsibility for Skanska's mining and natural gas businesses.
Fison said: "My first goal is to keep the improvements coming in. We've done well these last few years, but there's plenty of room for improvement."
Skanska last week posted better than expected results for the year to 31 December 2001. Its pre-tax profit was £72.9m, an 87% drop from the £563.6m profit it posted in 2000, but up on earlier estimates of £46.4m.
The group blamed the worsening economic climate for its difficulties.
Skanska has had continuing problems with its Polish business and said last October that most of the 3500 jobs that it was cutting worldwide would be in Poland.
The firm is the fourth largest construction group in Europe and also ranks fourth in the UK, with a UK turnover of £1.3bn in 2000.
Skanska said last year that its UK businesses were performing well and no jobs would be cut from them. The group had had problems with its UK operations and last year was forced to write off £13m on joint ventures with Costain and Mowlem.
The UK arm, which Skanska bought as contractor Kvaerner 18 months ago, also includes operations in India and Hong Kong.
Björk added that Skanska's US order book grew in December and that the downturn there appeared to have stabilised.