Turkey’s post-quake constructions face labour shortage challenge
After the massive February 6 earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria killing 59,259 people and damaging millions of buildings, the government in Ankara is building tens of thousands of housing and infrastructure projects in the region round the clock to meet the pledge of completing them within one year.
Ankara, April 25,2023: After the massive February 6 earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria killing 59,259 people and damaging millions of buildings, the government in Ankara is building tens of thousands of housing and infrastructure projects in the region round the clock to meet the pledge of completing them within one year.
However, the government faces a big challenge to reach the goal set by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan due to a severe labour shortage in recent years, and the problem is likely to worsen as the number of constructions sharply increased after the catastrophe, reports Xinhua news agency.
More than 13 million people living in 11 provinces were affected by the destructive earthquakes, and a large number of survivors were still homeless, according to the country’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).
“We will completely revive our earthquake cities by building 650,000 new houses. We are carrying out comprehensive urban transformation projects to prepare our whole country for earthquakes,” Erdogan said.
The government aims to finish 319,000 of the houses by the end of May, Turkish Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change Minister Murat Kurum said last week.
But construction industry veterans pointed out that the workforce is not sufficient to meet the demand for so many projects.
As a structural problem in the sector, the labour shortage needs to be addressed as soon as possible by training new workers and improving working conditions.
In 2018, the number of construction workers in the country was nearly 2.3 million, but this number plummeted to nearly 1.5 million after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, Hasan Kirlangic, chairman of the Construction Workers’ Union, told Xinhua.
He noted that construction workers have fled the sector for higher-paying or less physically demanding jobs in other industries or countries.
“Construction is a heavy industry and the labour force is dwindling due to relatively low wages. Besides, there is a shortage of new workers due to a lack of training,” Kirlangic explained.
Meanwhile, the earthquakes further complicate the labour shortage of the sector, and the number of construction workers will not be enough for the target of building more than 600,000 houses, Kirlangic warned.
Kirlangic urged the government to take urgent measures if it wants to meet its commitment to building new homes for quake victims in one year.
“If wages, safety, healthcare, and housing conditions are improved, the previous boom in the labour force can be restored,” he said.
Erdal Eren, president of the Turkish Contractors Association, told the Turkish parliamentary inquiry commission earlier this month that the country does not have the workforce to build permanent residences in the earthquake zone by the deadline set by the government.
The construction industry has difficulties in finding workers, and the number of vocational-technical schools should be increased, Eren told lawmakers.