Ibec: Job data ‘masks’ issues

Geoff Percival

Ibec has called for additional measures to help boost employment in the construction sector, saying current job-growth figures mask the true challenges facing the industry.

The employers’ group’s affiliate body Property Industry Ireland has warned of a skills shortage emerging and has cast doubt over the chances of enough construction jobs being created to meet new housebuilding targets.

Property Industry Ireland director David Duffy.

Earlier this year, Ibec forecast that 80,000 construction jobs would be needed by 2020 if the 30,000 to 40,000 estimated new house builds per year, necessary to meet dwelling demand, were to become a reality.

Latest CSO figures show year-on-year employment growth of 2.9% in the first quarter of the year, with the unemployment rate down to 5.8%. Economic think-tank, the ESRI said earlier this week that it expects Ireland to achieve full employment, or an unemployment rate of below 5%, by the end of 2019.

Ibec welcomed the employment numbers, saying they provide more evidence of “strong positive momentum in the economy” and show that employment levels for 2018 will surpass those of 2007 and “therefore reach a new record”.

Within those employment figures, total construction jobs rose 12,400 to 137,700. However, Property Industry Ireland has said that rise is coming off a low base and that skills shortages and other obstacles to growth are masking the true challenges facing construction growth.

“Having lost over 160,000 jobs during the downturn, employment has only increased by 56,800 since its lowest point in the first quarter of 2013. In the recent Property Industry Ireland and Ibec report, we estimate an additional 80,000 workers are needed in the construction sector to meet current housing demand,” said Property Industry Ireland director David Duffy.

“Skills shortages are already emerging in the sector. These are not just confined to the building trades, but are also emerging in the design and planning professions.

“We must remove any barriers that prevent an inflow of skilled labour from abroad. Both returning Irish emigrants and non-nationals need to feel needed and welcome.

“In addition, our recent report with Ibec recommends that the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs be convened to review and prioritise an upgrade to the construction sector’s skills base and capabilities.”

he said.

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