Businesses prepare to deal with worker shortage

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Workers install steel rods to fortify the foundation at a construction area, high on top of a building in Makati City. -- REUTERS

BUSINESS GROUPS are preparing to deal with the looming shortage of construction workers, as the government continues to implement several big-ticket infrastructure projects this year.

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) Chairwoman Ma. Alegria Sibal-Limjoco told reporters after a forum on Friday that businesses are preparing to deal with the lack of trained construction workers.

“We have to prepare for it… marami ’yung sa construction ngayon (there are many construction projects now). They are not able to get ’yung trained (workers),” she said.

“So what we are doing, we are preparing already para hindi magkaka-shortage (so there won’t be a shortage).”

She said PCCI has been working with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for 800-hour on the job training to upskill workers.

The PCCI foresees this worker shortage, she said, as the government ramps up the implementation of its massive infrastructure program “Build, Build, Build.”

The Duterte administration in November released a revised list of infrastructure projects, increasing the number to 100 from 75. Public-private partnership (PPP) projects on the list grew to 26 from nine.

The government is pushing for 56 of these projects to be completed by the end of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s term in 2022.

Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) President Henry Lim Bon Liong noted infrastructure projects have seen delays of around three months due to the labor shortage.

He said that skilled laborers have been recruited to work abroad, requiring companies to hire and train new workers.

“Every worker seeks a higher level of pay naman talaga, so the only thing we should do is increase the salary, be good to them,” he said.

Private real estate activity and government infrastructure projects have increased demand for construction workers, causing a hiring strain among contractors.

The Department of Labor and Employment in March 2019 said that it may slow the overseas deployment of construction workers by at least 90%, as around a million workers are needed for “Build, Build, Build” projects until 2022.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the construction industry — including all roles within the sector — made up 9.8% of total employment in 2019, compared with 9.4% in 2018.

Considering the increase in total employment, the construction industry in 2019 would then have an estimated 4.2 million jobs, compared with 3.9 million in 2018. — Jenina P. Ibañez