Real Estate

Infrastructure projects, construction, realty firms face shortage of workforce

V Rishi Kumar Hyderabad | Updated on May 22, 2020 Published on May 22, 2020

Construction sector companies engaged in large infrastructure projects, both in urban and rural areas, and real estate projects are facing hard times due to shortage of workforce, and in some cases, materials.

Just when they were seeking to find their way out of the lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, they are faced with huge shortage of workforce of up to 70 per cent, and shortage of materials, according to various sector players.

YD Murthy, Executive Vice President, Finance, of construction major NCC Limited, said “The construction sector is slowly coming out of the lockdown period. From a situation where the entire work was stalled in April, we have commenced work at various projects in the country. However, from about 20-25 per cent work, we are now at about 50-55 per cent work. The work level has been affected due to shortage of manpower.”

“In the case of projects for AIIMS in Punjab, over 1,400 workers are engaged, and in Mumbai Metro it is functioning barely at about 15-20 per cent due to restrictions and shortage of workforce. However, during this period of lockdown, we were able to execute a number of works in urban areas,” Murthy said.

Some of the large projects in the irrigation and power sectors, which engage hundreds of workers, have been affected. A couple of power projects of Telangana Genco, which are being executed within certain deadlines, have been impacted due to lack of workers. Recently, works were reviewed by TS Genco CMD D Prabhakar Rao and efforts are on to execute them in a time-bound manner by deploying workforce from other locations.

According to Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Ltd (MEIL), a leading infrastructure company executing the mega Kaleshwaram and Polavaram projects, works have been affected as 70 per cent of the workforce have gone offsite.

The Covid-19-led lockdown has created multiple problems in executing major projects. Several fast-track projects that need to be completed within a stipulated timeframe have been affected.

One of the challenges that major irrigation projects like Polavaram and Kaleshwaram is facing is that these have to be completed before the monsoon sets in. And given the shortage of manpower, meeting the deadline looks a challenge, sources said.

Migrant workers go home

Before the Covid-19-led lockdown, MEIL had deployed more than 2,700 workers at the project site. Most workers at the site are migrants from Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, MP, UP and Odisha. Of them, over 2,200 have left the site even after being offered additional salary, the company sources said.

The company had to arrange transport for them and there is no clarity when the migrant workers will return to work. Project sites are also faced with shortage of materials like cement, and steel, among others, forcing the developers to stall work.

Surendra Hiranandani, CMD, House of Hiranandani, said, “While the government has opened up construction activities in few regions after the lockdown, availability of labour is an issue now as migrant labour is moving back to their native places and may take some time to return. In the next few months, there may be a dip in the pace of (growth of) the sector, with reduced new launches and extension in completion of projects.”

“However, housing remains a basic necessity and demand will continue. The sector has displayed tremendous resilience in the past while battling challenges. While the presence of the pandemic remains for an uncertain time, the real estate sector will have to face some damage,” he said.

Space it out

According to Chintan Patel, Partner and Leader, Building, Construction and Real Estate, KPMG in India, “Over 49 million people (close to 12 per cent of the nation’s working population) is employed by the construction sector. Labour and capital can be expected to be in short supply once the restrictions end, and therefore projects should be carefully prioritised over a 30-45-day window.”

While the state governments are trying to create employment by inviting tenders, it may take some time for normalcy to return, the company stated. The revival of these sectors will likely be gradual, they explain.

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Published on May 22, 2020
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