AKC News // 55,000 building jobs to go, says FAS

Up to 55,000 building jobs are to go by the end of next year as the construction sector contracts, a new report has predicted.

Some 76,000 workers who were employed in housing construction at the end of 2006 will have lost their jobs by the end of next year, according to the employment and training authority FAS. However, 21,000 jobs will be created in other parts of the industry, giving a net job loss of 55,000.

"We're looking at an awful haemorrhage of jobs in the housing sector, and both this year and next year will be tough," said John McGrath of FAS, the author of the report for the construction sub-committee.

However, Mr McGrath said he was optimistic about the longer-term prospects for the industry, and predicted a partial recovery in jobs by 2013. By then, FAS is saying the loss in housing jobs will be reduced to 57,000, while 34,000 new jobs will be created in other areas, giving a net overall job loss of 23,000.

The impact of the slump in construction will vary hugely across different trades and sub-sectors, he said. Traditional "wet" trades such as blocklaying, bricklaying and plastering, as well as carpentry, will be worst-affected.

Mr McGrath said they are suffering a "double whammy" caused by the steep decline in the number of new houses being built, down from a high of 90,000 in 2006 to 45-50,000 this year - and a move away from traditional materials in big projects in favour of glass and concrete panelling.

In contrast, electricians will be less-affected by the downturn, and new opportunities will be created for specialist new skills in spot welding and steel fixing.

Many of the new jobs to be created are expected to come in large infrastructural projects planned by the Government under the National Development Plan (NDP). However, these could also be affected by a deterioration in State finances.

Mr McGrath said both immigrants and Irish workers will be affected by the job losses in construction. About 14 per cent of Ireland's 279,000 construction workers are non-Irish, according to one estimate. However, the increase in numbers on the Live Register is expected to be smaller as many foreign building workers leave Ireland in search of work elsewhere, he said.

The problems in the sectors are already having an effect on apprentice recruitment, which fell 30 per cent last year and is dropping even faster this year. Just 590 construction apprentices were taken on in the first four months of this year, compared to 1,282 in the same period last year and 1,538 in 2006.

Following the publication of the report, Siptu called on the on the Government to intervene to halt the decline in employment in the construction sector.

"The Government has no choice but to act now if it is to avert what will be a devastating blow not just to construction but the wider economy," said the trade union's national organiser for the construction industry, Eric Fleming.

Separately, the Labour Party said the prospects of finding a new job outside construction will depend crucially on people being able to access relevant training.

"If we are to avoid people slipping into long-term unemployment, then we need a major programme of training and up-skilling for these workers," said Willie Penrose, the Labour Party's spokesman on Enterprise Trade and Employment.

Source: Paul Cullen - www.ireland.com

Date : 03-06-2008