Cebu construction boom suffers from lack of workers

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Cebu (CNN Philippines, August 8) — Cebu is facing a lack of skilled construction workers which is affecting the booming construction industry in the province.

The Cebu Contractors Association said that while the lack of skilled construction workers has been present for a long time, the problem is now more serious with the resumption of several projects following the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Philconstruct Visayas 2023 chairman Kevin Lim said most of the contractors are even looking for skilled workers from neighboring provinces since the number of workers available in Cebu are not enough.

"It is really hard to find people within the city who are willing to work in the construction industry," Lim said.

Some of the provinces where they source workers include Negros, Leyte, and even Surigao.

He cited his own company, Zumyrphil Construction, as an example. Lim said they have 10 cranes but are only able use five units since they only have that many operators available.

Francis Gerard Cañedo, president of the Cebu Contractors Association, also agreed they have been suffering from the lack of skilled construction workers. He said most prefer to work in other jobs like in the tourism or the BPO sectors because of the notion that being a construction worker is a dead end job.

"Poaching of workers is also very rampant," he added. "Sometimes you see the workers here already working at another building next month."

Cañedo said most skilled workers are moving to other countries that offer much higher wages.

Cañedo said that 80% of the contractors in Cebu are considered as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) that will not be able to compete with foreign companies which offer higher salaries.

Aside from the lack of workers, the construction industry in Cebu is also suffering from high fuel costs, said Lim.

"Fuel prices are higher right now and it affects almost everything," he explained.

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But Lim believes "times are getting a little better compared to the previous two years" because of the resumption of projects that have been withheld during the pandemic.

Cañedo said that in order to cope with the lack of workers, they are now trying to "upskill" or multi-skill their workforce through trainings.

"It is a very challenging time but contractors are optimistic that we may be able to recover," he adds.

They are also looking into hiring more women in the construction industry who could handle welding, painting, and even masonry jobs.