Labor shortage seen in construction

Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - November 26, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Socialized housing developers are experiencing project delays amid a growing shortage of skilled laborers in the country as more workers opt to go overseas.

According to the Organization of Socialized and Economic Housing Developers of the Philippines (OSHDP), industry players are now having a difficult time employing skilled laborers which, in turn, results in project delays.

Marcelino Mendoza, OSHDP national president, said the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) should offer a training program in conjunction with housing developers and contractors.

“We should look at the model of Germany where there is emphasis in trades and apprenticeships even in high school and pre-college, hence they are immediately absorbed in the labor force,” Mendoza said.

The difficulty in hiring has resulted in project delays which, in turn, has caused poaching of skilled workers.

The shortage has also raised the asking price of skilled workers.

  Wages for plumbers and steel men have already increased 25 percent, while that for welders, painters, carpenters, masons and electricians rose 22 percent.

However, TESDA director Angelina Carreon said most of the TESDA trainings are in the services sector like the hotel and restaurant business, and only 10 percent of the number of trainees are in the construction industry.

  Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed unemployment rate in the country eased to a decade-low of 5.5 percent in April.

On the other hand, data from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) showed while there are 2.3 million workers looking for jobs as of June, not all of them are qualified.

“There is an immediate need for training for these individuals seeking employment for them to be qualified for the available jobs in the market,” Mendoza said.

He said the Duterte administration’s Build Build Build program would need two million additional workers until 2022.

Mendoza said compounding this problem is the mismatch between the available labor and the skills required by the construction industry.

Skilled construction workers, particularly welders, steel men, plumbers, tinsmiths, always consider jobs with three to five times percent premiums overseas.

However, he said the socialized housing sector could not afford additional costs and compete with their counterparts in the condominiums, offices, hotels, resorts and commercial retail construction which offer high value contract prices because of the price cap of P480,000 for a 24-square meter house.

EEI corporate senior vice president Norman Macapagal, for his part, acknowledged there is a lot of pressure on existing skilled workers in the country to consider overseas jobs due to huge demand, particularly in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.

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