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'Not enough workers to build homes promised by politicians'

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30,000 more construction workers would be needed to meet many politicians’ campaign promises to double current housing output. Stock picture

30,000 more construction workers would be needed to meet many politicians’ campaign promises to double current housing output. Stock picture

30,000 more construction workers would be needed to meet many politicians’ campaign promises to double current housing output. Stock picture

Ireland doesn't have nearly enough construction workers to deliver politicians' election promises on housing, according to a new report.

Construction consultancy firm Mitchell McDermott found the sector was already feeling "Celtic Tiger levels of pressure and is in danger of overheating".

It said construction output grew by 12pc to €23bn last year - but the number of construction workers driving that growth grew by only 4pc to 150,000 nationwide.

It calculated that 30,000 more construction workers would be needed to meet many politicians' campaign promises to double current housing output.

Report author Paul Mitchell said construction firms were struggling to source skilled workers amid a 13-year low in unemployment.

Mr Mitchell noted that housing unit completions had grown from 6,000 in 2014 to 21,500 last year amid "a huge surge" in planning applications for 19,000 apartments. Those proposed units, if approved, would take 18 to 24 months to build.

"If they all do go ahead, it will amount to a doubling of our current residential output in two years to just under 40,000 units. Indeed, several political parties in the run-up to the election are promising that this will be the State's housing output for the next five years. That's 200,000 new units in total," he said.

"Given the constraints in the sector, who will build these units?"

The rising price for skilled labour was a key driver in increasing completion costs by 26pc since 2015.

The effect, he said, was that an office building costing €20m to deliver five years ago would cost €25.2m today.

"That level of increase is just not sustainable," he said.

The Construction Industry Federation, in its election manifesto published yesterday, said the industry will need 100,000 more workers in the coming decade. It called on the next government to fund apprenticeships in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) because, it argued: "SMEs in construction are unable to invest in apprentices after a decade of recession.

"Government should divert funding from the unused National Training Fund as it has for the technology, agri-food and hospitality sectors."

Irish Independent